Grads, have you been applying for jobs but seeing no progress?


Recruiter to graduate guide, written by a recent graduate-turned-recruiter.


Only 6 months ago I was looking and applying for jobs myself, feeling rejected and not good enough.
Having been through intensive training as a recruitment consultant, I have now moved into my current role, recruiting graduates! During many conversations, I have been able to sympathise with the uncertainty in graduate's voices as they are trying to navigate their way through this new chapter.


The following tips are just a few which can help you stand out from a call list made up of hundreds of graduates. They are simple, effective and do not require much further research or work. Starting my journey as a recruiter, I quickly learned that the thoughts I had as a graduate, which included doubts over the skills I could offer to businesses full of experienced individuals, were far from reality. I have now discovered that graduates bring the flexibility, creativity, motivation and skills that a business needs to stay competitive and dynamic. Changing this mindset and incorporating some of the following tips could be your secret to success!

Set up a professional voicemail message
This is the first form of communication that recruiters will have if you happen to be away from your phone or, like most of us, are screening your calls! This will boost your credibility, make you seem more competent and encourage the caller to try you again. Keep it simple, short and to the point. Make sure you check your voicemails and text messages as most recruiters will try to call first before sending an email.

Have a conversation
When recruiters call they will be asking open ended questions. This is your opportunity to sell yourself, so do not take it for granted. Do not be scared to do most of the talking. If you get asked to talk about your current situation, try to provide some detail rather than a short answer. We like to know that people are capable of answering such questions and holding a natural and engaging conversation. Equally, the ability to communicate articulately is a skill many employers are looking for.


Naturally, your answers will vary, however a few tips include:
Currently working or in education (university) but looking for a new opportunity?
- Talk about what you are enjoying as well as what you are finding difficult (put a positive spin to this and think about what these tough situations have taught you).
- When making a point evidence it with examples, so mentioning figures and statistics is always a good idea such as KPIs, targets, number of assignments/exams completed
- What is important for you for your next role or any future plans you might have, for example studying abroad or any internships/training. (This will open up a new conversation as the recruiter will be able to tell you about the roles that they have available which might be suitable for you).

Unemployed and looking for a job?
-Previous employment and the things that you enjoyed there as well as the reason that you left (again, there could be many reasons for this however try to avoid blaming somebody else for your decision to leave work, and instead talk about everything you enjoyed and your transferable skills as a result of that job).
- If you are participating in any projects or events then talk about those
- Alternatively, feel free to talk about non-commercial elements such as your family, friends or hobbies/sport; we love it when personality comes through, just remember to keep the examples relevant.

Be aware of what is on your CV
As a recruiter, there is nothing worse than asking somebody to talk about their experience within their CV and hearing silence on the other side of the phone. A few tips to avoid the awkward silences include:
Know what is on your CV and be ready to talk about your roles and the companies that you worked for
If there are any gaps within your CV then address those. In order to represent you correctly, we need to understand the reasons behind any gaps.
If you would like to take this one step further and impress then try the following:
- Apply your experience to the job that you are seeking
- Talk about the organization's culture and how you would fit in
- What value can you bring to the organization which is different to other applicants

Ask questions
It is always favorable to ask questions at the end. This does three things, firstly, it shows that you have put some thought into your questions. Secondly, it increases your knowledge, allowing you to assess further if this position and company is right for you. Finally, it demonstrates enthusiasm and interest in the role!

Send a thoughtful follow-up note after your conversation
Sending a note that thanks the recruiter for their time and expresses your enthusiasm for the role goes a long way. A good tip is to mention something that you spoke about during the conversation. This not only shows commitment but it shows that you were paying attention!

I hope this is useful and will allow you to impress future recruiters. If you have found this useful, please feel free to comment and share as I would love to know what you guys think. If there is anything that you would like me to cover on my next blog post then please comment below with some topic ideas. Additionally, if you would like to know more about recruitment as a future career then please comment below or email me at [email protected]

Thank you.

 

What recruiters really want to see on a CV

What recruiters really want to see on a CV There is so much advice out there about how to write a CV, some of which can be found on this very blog! There is no question that people struggle when it comes to writing a CV and need guidance about how it should be structured however, this is only part of the story. As confidence returns to the economy, more people will decide to take the plunge and change jobs. In this highly competitive market, you need to ensure that your CV stands out so, over and above making sure it is well presented, what will make you more attractive? What do recruiters really want to see on a CV? In recruitment, whether working for an agency or directly for a company, we see a myriad of CVs on a daily basis. We are used to screening CVs quickly to ascertain whether they match our client’s brief however, rest assured, we are doing more than giving CVs a cursory glance. With limited time to speak to every candidate who applies, we need to look for clues in a CV which indicate whether a candidate is strong and also whether they are likely to match the values and culture of our clients. Here are some of the things recruiters like to see on a CV: Track record Recruiters love to see hard evidence on a CV. Tangible results and achievements, preferably with specific numbers, £s and % increases will set you apart from other candidates who use generic statements about their performance. Saying you’re good isn’t enough – you need to prove it. Brand consistency This very much depends on the individual situation and the preference of each client however, seeing a candidate who has worked for a number of competitor brands can make them attractive if this is important to the client. Conversely, the client may be looking for someone who has worked in a variety of sectors in which case brand variety will work in your favour. There is no question though that having worked for a market leading brand, whatever the sector, is extremely powerful. Clear progression Evidence that you have been promoted or been given greater responsibility is clearly an indicator of good performance. Seeing clear progression every couple of years will make you an attractive candidate and is particularly important if you have worked for a long time in the same company. Extra-curricular activities Are you a member of a working party in your company? Are you a mentor or coach for someone in your team? Anything which suggests that you go above and beyond your role remit gives the recruiter an indication that you are a. committed, b. passionate and c. a good candidate. After all, to be invited to do extra-curricular activities, you generally have to be good at what you do. Giving back CSR is important for most companies now and so evidence that you are involved with your company’s CSR programme or indeed involved with voluntary activities in your personal life can indicate a cultural alignment which will be of strong interest to some companies. Whether it is holding the post of School Governor or fundraising for a local charity, your willingness to give something back gives insight into you as a person and your value-set – something which is very important for many of our clients. Out of hours Tread carefully when listing hobbies and interests and use sparingly making sure they are interesting and different. Some would argue that spending time with family should be a given and does not qualify as a hobby!? Coaching your child’s football team or running marathons gives the recruiter yet more information about you and is useful as an ice breaker in an interview. Testimonials Used sparingly for added impact, testimonials on your CV can be hugely powerful however they must be from a credible source. Referees The credibility of your referees speaks volumes, especially if they are from your current company as this indicates that you are confident about your performance in your current role. Always take care of course to specify on your CV that the referee should only be contacted with your express permission and after you have resigned. And what Recruiters may worry about… Mind the gap! Recruiters are very good at spotting anomalies on your CV so be careful to explain the reasons for any gaps. Change in status Any significant change in status – a perceived reduction in remit/responsibility or drop to a lower grade/role will raise questions. There are often legitimate reasons for this (career change, relocation for instance) so it is worth adding a note to explain. Attention to detail There is simply no excuse for spelling or grammatical mistakes on a CV. A lack of attention to detail suggests to the Recruiter that you don’t care.   As ever, the key is to make yourself as attractive as possible to recruiters, giving yourself the best possible chance of being invited to interview. Paying extra attention to some of these areas will hopefully tempt recruiters to give you a call.   For further reading about CVs, click here: 6 reasons to keep your CV updated Is it really that difficult? Top tips on how to write a CV     Get your FREE CV Template
 

6 reasons to keep your CV updated.

6 reasons to keep your CV updated.

Before we know it, Christmas will be over and people’s attentions will be focused on 2015. Traditionally this time of year is not only for celebration, but also for reflection. This often leads to a mental review of our careers - how has our year been? What have we delivered and of course, where is it going? For many of us it is a time to think about changing position and with that, the need to dust off the CV. For some this may be a quick update from last year’s document but for others it may be the first they have written in 20 years.

Updating, writing or re-writing your CV from scratch is a task that can take hours to complete and can be challenging as you try and remember your achievements, development and journey. The easiest way to avoid this situation is to make sure you update your CV on an on-going basis, but why take the time and effort?

Be Ready - However content you are in your role, you never quite know what is around the corner. I wonder how many of the Phones 4U people saw that situation occurring? Insolvencies, redundancies and changes in personal circumstances are often unforeseen. Being ready and having a CV in such situations can clearly give you an advantage over others. It is always best to be prepared.

Dream job – Similarly, albeit on a more positive note, you never know when you may be approached or see your dream role advertised. You may be travelling on business with no way of writing a CV before the deadline and may miss out – how frustrating. Having an up to date CV allows you to react to approaches and adverts with speed, without compromising the quality of your application or the chances of securing the position.

Keep the version with agencies updated – Agencies are clearly a great source of job opportunities, but whether they call you and the opportunities they brief you on will largely be determined by the information they hold on record. If you have taken the time to keep the document updated then it is advisable to share this with the agencies you have relationships with. This will ensure that, even when you are not actively looking, you will be considered for relevant roles and hopefully only called about roles that are relevant.

Internal use – In many companies internal opportunities often involve a selection process. This may involve written applications, a CV or just an interview. Either way if you have taken the time to keep your CV updated you can use it as the basis to apply or at the very least to refresh your memory around what and how you have delivered and better prepare yourself for an interview.

Personal Development – it is very difficult to retain over time all the achievements, projects etc. that you have delivered in your various roles. It is also easy to lose sight of your personal development during this time and how you have worked to improve yourself and your effectiveness. This is a very popular area that is probed and discussed at interview and so keeping this updated and recorded as part of your CV, should help you be better prepared. This can also help focus you on your strengths and weaknesses improving your awareness of where you need to develop.

Appraisals – the vast majority of organisations have an appraisal scheme but individuals will be appraised at varying timescales. Making notes and regularly updating your CV will again give you a strong reference point when it comes to prepare for this process.

These factors are not just about your CV but also your LinkedIn profile. Everything that I have talked about above can equally be applied to LinkedIn, indeed if not more so. With your CV you arguably have full control over who views it. Depending on your settings, LinkedIn is much more accessible to the wider market and therefore may have a larger impact on your job search, particularly when you are not actively looking. I do accept that you need to be sensitive with the public information that you are providing but you can still outline your role and responsibilities and what you have a achieved.

However, the reality is it is not easy to remember or indeed to find the time to regularly update your CV every couple of months. So if you do find it difficult to have the discipline to keep your CV updated on an ongoing basis, and I do understand that, at the very least I would set up a file to store and record relevant information. This could be relevant to your role, training courses you have attended, dates of promotions, projects you have delivered etc. Having this information to hand in one place will certainly make life easier when you do sit down to update your CV.

Spending the time and effort will pay off in the long run and in my opinion deliver you a more credible, accurate and stronger CV.

 

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Top CV writing tips

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

With the New Year looming and positive news regarding the economic outlook, many of your thoughts will undoubtedly be turning to your career and how you can move it forward in 2014.

Time, therefore, to get your CV up to date. But where do you start?

Here are our top tips for writing your CV - for more detailed advice, please see my previous blog How to write a CV

Beware the over-use of boxes, lines, tables and borders. All of these may cause issues when your CV is sent via email or loaded onto a system. Using a simple Word format with the use of Bold and bullet points to break up the text which will make your CV easy to read.

It’s all about you

In my opinion, CVs should be written in the first person and from your perspective rather than in the third person. This I’m sure is open to debate however as it is a personal synopsis of your career, who better to ‘narrate’ it than you!

Get the length right

As a general rule, a well-written CV should fill 3 pages and only go beyond this if you are at a very senior level. If you are at a senior level and have a CV of two pages, I would bet your bottom dollar that you are selling yourself short. Tips to maximising space:

  • Keep flowery prose to a minimum
  • Use clever formatting (font size, narrow margins etc.) and bullet points to avoid large blocks of text.
  • Be economical with your language without missing any salient points.
  • Leave out the words Curriculum Vitae at the top of the page. Your name will suffice and this will save you a valuable line of text!
  • Keep address details in the Header or Footer or at the top of the page.
  • Keep personal interests brief - one line is fine to give someone a flavour of your interests outside work.
Go back in time

Your CV therefore, should always be written in reverse chronological order. That is, your current or most recent role should appear at the top and descend backwards in time as the readers progresses down the page. Equally, as you go back in time to your more junior roles, the level of detail should also decrease and you can revert to list format. You need to make sure you prioritise space for your most recent and relevant roles.

Contact details

There is a worrying trend of people not including their contact details. I won’t go on about this. Suffice to say that if you don’t include your telephone number, you are unlikely to receive a call inviting you to interview!

Also, a word of caution, if you have a particularly ‘cheeky’ email address, for example [email protected],  you may want to reflect on what message that sends out to prospective employers!?

Give it substance

Layout and format is nothing without decent content. Ensure that you give sufficient detail about your role, remit and responsibilities. List your achievements but make sure you back them up with tangible facts eg. figures, awards, testimonials etc. Using the STAR/CAR format will help – click here for more information

Beware of clichés and repetition.

Cliched CV phrases crop up time and time again. For example "Passionate, hard-working and results-oriented team player with strong communication skills."

Try to avoid generic adjectives listing soft-skills like this. Instead, make an impact through using interesting language in particular using ‘action’ words like demonstrated, initiated, supported, motivated to describe your experience and achievements.

Be wary of over-using the word ‘I’ particularly at the beginning of each sentence/bullet point. Try to vary the construction of sentences as follows:

  • Having worked collaboratively with head office project teams, I was instrumental in the launch of a new store format, having full accountability for the critical path in relation to its delivery in stores.
  • I initiated a new best practice for stock-control across the region which resulted in a 15% decrease in stock loss.
Accuracy and integrity 
  • Ensure that any dates listed are accurate and if there are any gaps in your work history, that they are accounted for eg. June 2011 – Oct 2011 Travel to India with Oxfam.
  • Note also that lying on your CV is likely to result in issues further down the line – there are numerous examples of people having lost their jobs after it has been discovered that they lied or ‘embellished’ their CV.

Education and Qualifications

Education should be listed in reverse chronological order starting with your highest qualification. Ensure that if you have a Degree, it is visible.

Check and check again

Please check and double-check your CV for spelling or grammatical errors. I cannot stress how important this is. Cue previous rant in my blog It’s really not that difficult.

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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.  

Click here to follow us on LinkedIn for interesting updates on Retail and the latest job vacancies

 
 

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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Top tips for how to write a CV

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

As there are positive signs that the job market is picking up, you may well be feeling more confident about starting to look for a new role. Chances are it will have been a while since you updated your CV. Although it is something we always say you should do regularly, let’s face it, when you are happy and busy in your job, it is often the last thing on your mind.

However, as the job market becomes more competitive again, you need to be ready to move quickly and so the first job is to dust off your CV and get to work!

As someone who looks at a lot of CVs on a daily basis, I am still surprised by how many people send a poor CV out into the world to represent them. It makes me a little angry so in aid of keeping my blood pressure under control, here is my view on how to create a presentable CV and, in a highly competitive market, give yourself the best chance of securing an interview!

Which format to use

There are a myriad of CVs formats, most of which are downloadable and a similar number of schools of thought about whether you should keep it traditional or try to do something to stand out. This very much depends on the industry you are applying for. In creative or media roles, your CV is likely to showcase your design/digital skills and so there is room to be more radical. For other industries, the safest option is to stick to a traditional format with the aim being to give the reader the clearest understanding of your career to date. I fully confess to being a ‘CV classicist’ and don’t tend to be swayed by fancy graphics or gimmicks.

Beware the over-formatted CV

The bane of my life is an over-formatted CV. By this I mean one which has text in boxes and columns, numerous font types and sizes and an exaggerated use of bullet points. You may think this looks more ‘impactful’ however be aware that when CVs are added to a database, heavy formatting is often lost in the process. The answer to this is to PDF your CV however this can also cause issues if a system cannot ‘read’ the CV and also means that the CV cannot be corrected if a mistake is spotted.

By laying out your CV clearly and with sensible use of bold and bullet points, you should still be able to create a CV which is easy on the eye and will look the same to the reader as it does to you.

How long?

In the world of CVs this is the million-dollar question. People are given so much conflicting advice "it must fit onto one page" (even if you are a Managing Director?!) or conversely, it should contain detail on every role you have held (even if it runs to 5 pages?!).

In reality it is about common sense. If you are beginning your career, you may well struggle to fill more than one page however if you include all relevant information (Education, Qualifications, Interests etc.) you should be able to stretch to a page and a half. Equally, if you are a senior operator with many years of experience, it can be very hard to condense it down without losing some really valuable content.

As a general rule, a well-written CV should fill 3 pages and only go beyond this if you are at a very senior level. If you are at a senior level and have a CV of two pages, I would bet your bottom dollar that you are selling yourself short.

The key is to keep flowery prose to a minimum, use clever formatting (font size, narrow margins etc.) and be economical with your language without missing any salient points. Also, and this is just a little niggle on my part; it isn’t really necessary to have the words Curriculum Vitae at the top of the page. Your name will suffice and this will save you a valuable line of text!

Likewise, if you are short on space, don’t feel the need to write a long paragraph about your personal interests. One line is fine to give someone a flavour of your interests outside work.

Which order?

Absolutely the first thing that any recruiter (agency or in-house) will want to know is who you work for and what you do. Of course they will take note of other details but, for people who have to speed read hundreds of CVs a week, this is the salient point. Your CV therefore, should always be written in reverse chronological order. That is, your current or most recent role should appear at the top and descend backwards in time as the readers progresses down the page. The fact that you started your career as a paperboy has little relevance to your application*** (***unless you are a school leaver or recent grad whereby any work experience has merit). Also, please don’t use Work Experience as a heading for this section. This is your Career History* (*unless you are a school leaver or grad in which case that may be the best description).

Contact details

There is a worrying trend in the CV world of people not including their contact details. I won’t go on about this. Suffice to say that if you don’t include your telephone number, you are unlikely to receive a call inviting you to interview! Ideally, you should include your email address, your home address and a landline number if you have one. You need to be as accessible as possible and it is important that the reader knows where you live. On this point, if you are able to relocate, please make this clear. For obvious reasons, avoid using a work email address or number.

Content is king

Of course, layout and format is nothing without decent content. The challenge is striking a balance between providing enough detail and being overly verbose. The key is to be as specific as possible. If you list your achievements, ensure that you provide evidence. For example, it is not enough to say that you significantly increased sales. You need to say by how much and what you implemented to achieve this result. Ideally, you should provide enough detail to spark interest in the reader and hopefully you will get the chance to elaborate at interview stage.

It is important that you give the reader a clear idea of your remit. For instance, if you are a Store Manager, what is the square footage of your store, how many staff do you employ and what turnover are you responsible for? Equally for an Area Manager, there can be a big difference between a Cluster Manager looking after 5 stores and an Area Manager looking after 25 stores. Giving an idea of geography, turnover and reporting structure also gives the reader an insight into the scope of your role and how much accountability you really have.

Education and Qualifications

Unless you are a school leaver or recent grad, there is no need to list each subject you studied at school or the grade you achieved. You should still include, however, your place of education and a summary of the qualifications you achieved. For example: 8 GCSE’s at grade C or above.

Education should be listed in reverse chronological order starting with your highest qualification. I have seen numerous cases recently of people who have a degree burying it below their school information, or omitting it completely. If you have a degree, please ensure that it is clear to the reader. Some employers insist that candidates are degree educated so this could be the difference between you being asked to attend an interview or not.

The cardinal sin

Once written, you should check your CV for spelling and grammar. You should then check it again, use your spellcheck and get someone else to proof read it for you. I cannot stress how important this is. Cue previous rant in my blog Is it really that difficult.

Despite the much-lauded growth of the video-CV, ‘paper’ CVs are here to stay for the immediate future so it’s important to get it right!

While I head off to lie in a darkened room for a while, I do hope this helps you update your CV. I’m sure I have forgotten some points so please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like further advice.

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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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Is your CV on Trend?

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

Over the past 5 years, Retail has had a torrid time navigating through one of the longest and hardest economic downturns. Rising costs of living, low pay awards and a bleak economic outlook have led to consumer spending being put under a huge amount of pressure.  Sadly, as we have all seen, a number of retailers have been unable to survive due to a whole host of reasons whether that be structural changes in their market sector or indeed the growth of online. As I discussed in my recent blog about the future of retail, there is a bright future but businesses need to continue to evolve.

One debate I have had recently was around the impact this has on the retailer’s resourcing needs. Over the last few years, cost cutting has been central to most retailers’ tactics as they fight to survive and prosper  in such challenging conditions.  The question is, how long can you just continue to cut controllable costs, what happens when you reach the end of this road and what impact does this have on the skills you need in your business?

WH Smith are a great example. Kate Swann has, without doubt, done a phenomenal job. The results released in in January were typical of those over the last few years – i.e. sales are declining but profits are up.  But, like most retailers over the last few years this has impacted the look and feel of the stores, and has come at a price. A lack of investment and aggressive cuts will ultimately have a negative impact on both the quality of your estate and the resource you have to manage the business. At some point, once you have driven your costs down as low as they can feasibly go, the strategy will need to refocus on really driving sales growth.  Look at the appointment of Matt Davies at Halfords - having been through a sustained period of cost cutting, clearly part of the attraction was his track record at Pets at Home in driving sales growth.

From a leadership point of view this requires a different skill set and arguably, a different profile of individual.  As we look towards recovery and with little cost cutting opportunities left, many businesses will be seeking those individuals with a track record and strength in driving top line sales. The only way to prosper for most businesses is by driving these top line sales.

As I discussed in my blog last week – the market in retail recruitment continues to be very challenging and setting yourself apart from those around you is critical if you are to be successful in your job search. Part of this must be around how you present yourself both on CV and at interview. 

So how can you ensure your CV remains on trend with these changing market conditions?

Assuming you have a well written CV, then you have a great starting point however you do need to consider what your current CV says about you. Do you come across as a sales driver or a cost cutter?  What does your executive summary say about you and your style? Look at the key statements - is the language you use positive, does it indicate the ability to spot commercial opportunities and realise genuine sales growth?

Your executive summary is important to describe and characterise you in the right way however this must be supported by your achievements. Go through your bullet points - do they show your strengths in the right area, is it balanced? Are your opening bullet points cost focused or opportunity focused? Have you described how you have utilised Social Media to drive footfall? Have you highlighted your ability to recognise and motivate talent in your team that is focused on growth? Have you led development initiatives that encourage commerciality? Many middle to senior managers will have been promoted and cut their teeth in times of austerity, how have you developed their capability to move their business units forward? Do you mention KPIs concerned with waste, loss, payroll reductions…or do you highlight footfall increases, £ per Sq Ft increases, Top line L4L sales, new product development, design initiatives etc.

Don’t rip your CV up and start again…just ensure it is in line with the market trend.

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

 

A Candidate’s Guide to Working with Recruitment Consultants

Far from being a passive way of looking for a new job, getting the most out of working with a recruitment agency requires input from the candidate’s side too. Agencies will give you access to industry knowledge, market information and jobs that aren’t advertised directly, as well as support and advice with your general career management. We have included some generic advice here in relation to what to do and what not to do to enable a recruitment agency to assist you in the most effective and efficient way.

  • Send an email and ideally include the reference number of the role that you are applying for.
  • Keep your CV format simple, ideally using ‘Word’, so that the recruitment agency can upload it into their system easily. If suggestions are made around improving your CV then take the feedback on board and make the amendments.
  • Have a short summary of what skills you have that make you marketable, what achievements you have that make you stand out from your peer group and be very clear about what type of role you want.
  • You should also be flexible. A good recruiter will suggest roles that you hadn’t thought about and that could be ideal for you, while remaining in the parameters that you have originally stipulated.
  • Rapport with a recruitment agency is paramount and requires effort and input from both parties. Be honest at all times in terms of your background and your activity levels when looking for a new role.
  • Keep your key contacts updated on your progress in the market but don’t be overly persistent in terms of frequency of contact. Good recruiters repay loyalty with loyalty and will put you forward for their best opportunities. Look on your consultant as a career partner, not just an agent.
  • How you handle your job search is a key indicator of your organisational skills and your planning ability. It is absolutely critical that you keep control of your CV at all times. You must keep a record of which companies you have applied to directly or through an agency and when that application was made to ensure that no duplicate applications are made
  • Never let an agency send your CV to a company without them telling you who that company is or without signing a Non Disclosure Agreement first.
  • No matter how keen you are to move on in your career, try not to register with multiple agencies that you do not know or trust at once. Most big employers are currently placing vacancies with more than one agency, as they feel that creating competition between agencies in the same sector will give them a better result. This creates the opportunity for you to be put forward for the same jobs by several recruiters if you are not controlling your CV. Employers will be concerned if they receive your details from multiple agencies.
  • Respond promptly to any communications and check your email as well as your phone. This can sometimes be tricky if you’re still employed elsewhere but let the agency know the best times to contact you and always be available then. Unfortunately the right career move can be like waiting for buses – nothing for ages and then several roles come along at once. It is then often a case of the client being under pressure to fill the vacancy quickly, meaning you need to be in a position to respond when needed.
  • Research thoroughly before any interviews, the company, the role and the type of person that they are looking for. Remember that you are not only representing you but the agency as well and that what you do and say is a direct reflection of both.
  • Call the recruiter after any interviews to give feedback on how you view the opportunity. Remember, the more specific the feedback then the easier it is for the agency to represent you and your interests.
  • Keep in contact if things change on your side and let the agency know straight away. For example, you have an offer or employment or you’ve decided to change your search parameters for example by moving house or area.
  • In summary, show that you value the service that your recruitment consultant is giving you and be a good ambassador for them whenever they introduce you to one of their clients. If recruitment agencies have doubts about how well you will perform in an interview, they will be reluctant to introduce you to their client
  • Remember that a recruiter needs to place the right people in the right roles to get paid, so it’s in their interests to overcome any objections the employer may have. For this reason, don’t try to disguise or cover up your situation if there are historical work issues that may cause problems with a new employer. Good recruitment consultants will have a number of years experience in the market and will know when things are not quite right. Your best hope is to be scrupulously honest, no matter how difficult, and let the agent handle things with the employer.
  • Most importantly, if there is anything else that you obviously should be telling the recruiter, don’t wait to be asked. Never leave the recruiter in the position of having to say: ‘I don’t know’ to their client.

It does take time to build up trust with a recruiter and it is a two way relationship. Pay attention to your instincts. If you feel that a recruitment agency is not putting you forward for enough vacancies, or is putting you forward for jobs that don’t seem to match your criteria, question them. Let them see that you are fully engaged and that you expect them to live up to your standard.

Good luck with your career move.

Russell Adams