Will consumer sentiment lead to another recruitment rollercoaster?

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

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.
 

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

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

LinkedIn is a decidedly rusting bullet for recruitment agencies

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

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]  
 

How to write an interview script – with FREE Retail Area Manager Interview Template

We are often asked by clients for sample interview questions for certain roles. This tends to be by smaller companies who perhaps have a small HR function and who have never had reason to write a formal interview process or script. With this in mind, we thought it would be useful to outline how to draw up a standard interview script. It may sound simple but there is more to it than googling ‘top ten interview questions!’ – at least if you want the interview to effectively assess potential candidates! NB. I have kept this intentionally simple. If we were designing this for a client from scratch we would need to go into more detail, designing a competency matrix as the foundation before writing both the job description and subsequent interviews. Why have a standard interview? There is a balance here between making the process too standardised and having an informal process which purely relies on personal opinion rather than hard evidence. If the process is too formulaic, you may miss out on some of the candidate’s less tangible qualities. If you have no process at all, chaos tends to ensue with each hiring manager looking for something different, no audit trail and worst case scenario, questions being asked which are discriminatory or even illegal! Also, a big problem companies face when recruiting is that the people doing the interviewing may have had no interview training and be nervous themselves when called upon to interview. Having a (good) interview script can help give inexperienced interviewers confidence. What are the competencies/capabilities you are looking for? This should be the starting point for any recruitment process. Of course there is more to it than that (culture fit, personality etc.) however at the very least, you need to know that the candidate has the capability to do the job before you factor in their potential ‘fit’ with the company. If you don’t have one already, it is worth drawing up a list of competencies for the role you are recruiting for. These should be a clear guide to the specific skillset required, ideally with key measures for each competency attached. Keep the list brief – any more than 6 competencies and it will be very hard to assess these effectively. Think about what the absolute pre-requisites are and ask yourself “what will the person be doing to demonstrate success in this role” and “how will we measure their success?”. The format should look something like this: Once you have your competency matrix agreed with the key stakeholders, you can use it as the basis for the job description and the interview process. What structure do you want your script to have? For a straightforward interview, e.g. for the first stage of a process before an assessment centre or where there will be a 2 stage process with a structured interview first followed by an OJE or sign off interview at final stage, then I would suggest the following: a combination of a competency based interview and a more fluid set of questions to assess culture and team fit. That way, you will be assessing in a rounded way while still providing a robust audit trail and a consistent set of questions for every candidate. How many questions? This is a tricky one. Ideally, an interview like this should last between 1 and 1.5hrs – anything less and I would question its validity. However, different interviewers will have different styles – some more verbose than others and some more skilled at keeping an interview moving if the candidate’s responses are too long-winded. I would use the competences as a guide and aim to ask 2 questions per competency. This will keep the interview balanced and then you can allow additional time for the more open, culture based questions. What format should it take? Again, simplicity is key here. Having worked in-house and knowing how difficult it was to get any interview feedback from hiring managers at all let alone anything in writing, it needs to be a document which is easy to use. There should be enough space for notes and there should be specific enough questions to guide the interviewer about how much detail they need to give in terms of feedback. To score or not to score It is possible to assign a mark for each question, enabling you to give a total score for the interview. This can be done by apportioning a score per competency e.g. if you have 5 competencies for an Area Manager role, you could assign 4 points per competency, giving you a total of 20 possible marks. The scoring for each competency is based on a scale for instance: 4     Excels in demonstration of capability 3     Demonstrates capability 2     Demonstrates some areas of capability however has some development areas 1       Does not adequately demonstrate capability   If the assessor feels the candidate has excelled in their demonstration of the competency, they would get the full 4 points and so on. This tends to work particularly well when used as part of an overall assessment process. We have created a free Area Manager interview script template, download here:
 

Are people now looking to return from In-house to agency recruitment?

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In our constant attempt to understand the idiosyncrasies of Google SEO, we are able to look at what people are searching for when they stumble upon our blog. This is really useful as it gives us an idea of what content we can potentially write which may answer their questions. In recent weeks, we have noticed that there have been numerous searches concerning making the move from in-house to agency recruitment…an interesting indicator which made me wonder what is causing people to raise this as a dilemma?

Shane wrote a while ago about this in a blog titled The Recruitment Hokey-cokey in which he described his own situation when he decided to go back to an agency.

I also wrote about how agency experience benefits the in-house recruiter in Leaving the dark side but this was very much focused on people taking the well-trodden path from agency to in-house and not the other way round.

So what is driving this potential shift in direction?

Well, the recruitment market is certainly changing (at least it is in the Retail & Hospitality markets).

  • More positive economic forecasts and some decent results from retailers over Christmas is manifesting itself in increased job flow and a greater commitment from clients to recruit.
  • There are increasing numbers of strong candidates coming onto the market which is resulting in multiple job offers and companies are missing out if their processes aren’t up to scratch.
  • There has been a noticeable change in LinkedIn’s functionality as a recruitment tool – something we have certainly noticed. They are changing the search functionality regularly and the general ‘word on the street’ is that they will move towards a paid model in the near future. Unless companies have a large recruitment team, it is unlikely they will invest in LinkedIn recruiter licences which would leave  an individual recruiter without the ready source of candidates which LinkedIn has provided in recent years.
  • We have also noticed that more and more candidates are ‘turning off’ to LinkedIn and removing their profiles. This could be because it is widely perceived as a job board and therefore if they are overly active on this medium it could indicate to their boss that they are looking to leave. (Indeed, we know of a couple of instances where companies are implementing stricter policies concerning their employees’ use of LinkedIn…). It could also be because it has now become so widely used by agencies and in-house teams alike and that people are tuning out the white noise of email introductions and headhunt approaches. Either way, this will mean that all recruiters have to be much more inventive about how they source, and most importantly, engage prospective candidates…

There is no question that this change will put added pressure on in-house teams who are already stretched in terms of time and resource.

There is much talk about the end of recruitment agencies and there is no question, the larger organisations are investing in their in-house functions by employing senior recruiters from the search firms, enabling them to proactively target candidates without incurring agency fees. However, we are along way away from this being the norm and I think there will be a place for agencies for a long time to come…but then I would say that wouldn’t I ?!

Seriously though, for those people working in-house without the luxury of a well-resourced team, it will become increasingly difficult to source candidates (particularly the good ones) and therefore to fill vacancies directly.

There is a hackneyed view that in-house recruiters are all ‘failed’ agency recruiters and I strongly disagree with this. I love the assumption that being successful at an agency (normally measured by revenue billed alone) is somehow the measure that all must strive to live up to!?  In my view it is a completely different role and requires a very different set of strengths (albeit requiring the same knowledge of the recruitment process). I have argued before that you can take the highest agency biller and put them in-house but they are likely to struggle with the demands of servicing multiple internal stakeholders where they are not able to simply work closest to the fee. The problem now is that the expectation is that in-house recruiters will not only navigate the internal politics of their company in order to facilitate a better recruitment process but they will also be genius direct recruiters! I just think it’s really hard to do both well and will only get harder as the market changes.

The people that will excel in-house as the market changes are likely to be skilled at managing both their internal capabilities, (sourcing directly when it is easiest to do so) and getting more out of a select group of agencies – driving value for money rather than purely lowering cost of hire. These people will need to be so much more than even the most successful agency recruiters and this may well mean that there is an exodus as people realise that in-house is not the ‘easy’ option and does in fact require a more sophisticated skillset (when done properly….). Companies may well start to streamline their recruitment functions again leaving some people in these roles at risk.

Earning potential could well be a factor too. During the recession, it was tough to hit bonus on the agency side and many people will have moved in-house for job security and a decent overall package (higher basic salary and corporate benefits). However as the market shifts, people may start to calculate that they could earn more by returning to an agency role.

If people are open to a move back into the agency environment, this could benefit everyone, as having more agency consultants who have in-house experience and can genuinely empathise with their clients will raise service levels and hopefully break down some of the barriers that exist…the ‘them and us’ mentality.

However, agencies will need to offer these people something different than the environments which probably caused them to cross over in the first place. There are lots of agencies out there who are trying to offer their clients more than a CV shop and they will undoubtedly value people who can demonstrate that they can not only source candidates but can manage client relationships in a more sophisticated way.

As ever not all in-house and agency roles are the same and it all depends on the company, how they operate and what value they place on their recruiters. Being open-minded about making a potential return to an agency is the best approach if the opportunities in-house start to change. Both sides of the fence have value and offer rewarding careers.

 

How to determine whether your salary is competitive in the market.

During the recession many people have experienced very little or no growth in salary and earnings as companies have looked to carefully control their costs. As many a politician has told us, rises in the cost of living has led a fall in overall living standards over the last few years. But with an improving economy and a rapidly improving job market many people may be looking to improve their earnings as they review their career. At times we all feel we are not paid enough for the job that we do, or assume that there will be others that are being paid more but how do you know if you are being paid the going rate and what is your real worth in the market?

I should start by saying that there is no easy answer to this question. Partly because roles are always slightly different so comparing them can be very difficult. In its most basic form, the salary you receive is what the company perceives is acceptable. In many cases this may bear no relationship to national averages, industry averages, or with what anyone else in your company is being paid. In reality what you are paid will largely depend on the company you’re working for and how it approaches salary structures. It may be their philosophy is to ensure they keep their best talent or perhaps to pay the lowest they can get away with!

So how can you try and determine your market worth?

Compare the market

One of the more accurate ways to establish your worth and the market rate is by analysing some market data. For instance, this could take the form of looking for job adverts for similar roles to identify the salaries that are advertised. As you can appreciate this not an exact science as the salaries offered may well differ from those being advertised and the exact scope and responsibilities of the roles may differ. However this tactic should certainly give you a good feel. The other method of comparing the market is to look at salary surveys from your sector – these are widely available, often compiled by specialist recruiters and can be identified by a quick search on the internet. However, these are often very generic and may not detail the specific role that you perform. Combining this research will certainly give you the best chance of understanding where you sit in the market.

Company culture

As mentioned above, your company’s attitude to compensation and reward is likely to be a significant factor in whether you are paid the going rate for the role you are performing. You are likely to have a feel for this from how it manages and communicates its reward structure. Your company is also likely to have a reputation in the market and whether that is for great culture, great pay, great benefits or perhaps quite the opposite. Either way you are likely to have a gut feel about where you stand.

In it for the long term

As part of your consideration it is also important to look at what the future might hold for your company and your future potential earnings. When companies are doing well and are optimistic about the future they tend to pay more than when times are tough. If your company has a meritocratic culture where success is rewarded then it is likely that if you perform you will enjoy considerable salary growth over time. Even if you feel in the short term you are not being fairly rewarded it is important you take the medium and long term into consideration. It really might not be worth moving roles now for an extra 2or 3 thousand pounds when the prospects of career development are strong. Indeed promotion is the clearly the best way to increase your earnings.

It’s all about the package

The most important element to considering your market worth is to look beyond your basic salary to the overall package that you receive. In my experience benefits packages can vary enormously from company to company and it is really important that the other elements of your remuneration are taken into consideration. Other factors such as pension contribution, bonus schemes, share options etc. can have a considerable impact on your overall earnings and need to be factored in. It is often worth breaking down each element and placing on a spreadsheet to establish the overall value of your package.

Talk to the experts

Specialist Recruiters and headhunters have a unique insight into the market. They are arguably better qualified than most to provide you with an accurate picture of how well you are remunerated for the role that you do in comparison to other people in the market. They are talking to candidates day in day out and will have a feel for where salaries are going. It is worth using relationships you have to try and establish where you are financially positioned in the market.

Know the market

Individuals in your sector are likely to be able to add to the market knowledge you will have gathered. People find it awkward to ask friends, co-workers or former co-workers, but it's often an effective way to find out what the average salaries are within your specialist field. Just be careful, particularly internally, if you start asking everyone in your team or department about earnings. Make sure you ask them for a range for a particular job and not what they are currently earning. That way you are likely to get a more accurate feel.

What if you feel you are underpaid

If you discover through research that you are not being paid anything close to the market rate for the role you are performing you have several choices. One is to keep quiet and look for a new job where you will almost certainly be offered a higher salary. You can keep quiet and keep the job you have, hoping your employer will magically loosen the purse strings. Or, of course you can choose to talk to your employer about what you now know. I plan to cover this subject in a future blog but clearly any such conversation needs to be well thought through and handled in the right way. As the market picks up and candidates have more opportunities in the market it is inevitable that both internal salaries will need to increase and that the market rate for roles will start to edge up. Market wise we aren’t quite at the point yet but as the recovery takes hold it is certainly on its way.

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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.  

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Do employers and recruiters really care about the Candidate Experience?

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

I was prompted to write this after observing my colleagues go through a tough summer in recruitment. Tough, not so much due to the economic conditions as things are actually more positive than they’ve been for a long time but because of numerous issues simply getting our candidates through a recruitment process. I will try to elaborate .

During the recession, due to the glut of candidates on the market, companies have had the pick of the bunch. It really has been a ‘buyers’ (client) market. Companies in the happy position of being able and willing to recruit have held all the cards and conversely, candidates have had to accept that they are one of many and so need to do whatever it takes to land a rare job offer.

I think this situation has had an adverse effect on the ‘candidate experience’ which we recruiters often talk about and which is often held aloft by companies as something they are truly proud of.

The Candidate Experience is, broadly speaking, how candidates are treated when they go through a recruitment process. What the application process is like, how they are communicated with, what information they are given, how they are made to feel and if they are unsuccessful, how they are rejected from the process. It continues through the offer stage, notice period and on-boarding process.The quality of this experience should be important to companies (particularly in the Retail & Hospitality and Consumer sectors) because each candidate is likely to be a current or potential customer. In a competitive market where a strong brand is so important, it is important to ensure that your brand as an employer is as strong as your brand for consumers. It is also really important for recruitment agencies, as we need our candidates to come back to us for all their subsequent career moves. We work in an industry with such a poor overall reputation that individual companies simply cannot afford to lose candidates or damage relationships.

What has got me flummoxed at times this year, has been the disregard of the impact on candidates of poor recruitment processes, whether that be due to sketchy information, elongated timescales or poor assessment techniques.

Before I go any further, this is not about apportioning blame. As the ‘middleman’, our job is to deliver for our clients and support our candidates and, when all goes smoothly, it is a fantastic privilege. We must take the rough with the smooth and, irrespective of our lack of responsibility for how companies choose to assess people or treat them through the process, we need to act as a buffer and minimise the impact on the candidate and client if things aren’t as professional as they should be. What worries me is that a lot of processes suffer from a lack of common sense and worse still, a lack of common courtesy. We have seen examples of this over the past year and often I think it is because, when planning a recruitment process and assessment method, the assumption is that candidates should bend over backwards. In principle, I agree with this and if you are serious about getting a new job, you will need to be extremely flexible about making yourself available and travelling wherever necessary for interview. However, when candidates are currently employed, we have to respect that they should not jeopardise their current role when attending interviews. So, if we are only giving a few days notice for interview, we cannot expect a busy Store Manager, Regional Director or Head of Marketing to miraculously free their diary. Equally, when asking candidates to take a day off to attend an assessment centre, in my opinion, we should give them full opportunity to represent themselves. The current vogue for X factor-style rejections half-way through the day makes sense from a practical perspective however it is hardly fair on candidates, particularly if you have asked them to prepare a presentation in advance which they then don’t get to deliver. The same is true of interviews – much better to give a little more notice for interviews and make sure that the hiring manager is fully focused rather than a candidate travelling several hours only to spend 35 mins in the interview because the interviewer has another meeting.

Another issue candidates have raised is being interviewed by inappropriate people. Such was the experience of a Senior Operations Director whose first meeting with a particular business was with a junior member of the resourcing team whom was clearly out of their depth. When it came to giving feedback to the candidate, they lacked the level of knowledge or capability to deliver it positively and at the right level given the level of seniority. Feedback in general is a recurring issue. We are constantly in a position of having to make excuses to candidates who, several weeks after interview, may at best have a verdict, but don’t have any detailed feedback about how they performed. This reflects badly on the agency and the company concerned. The worst culprits are line managers and I feel for our in-house contacts who you can hear cringing as they explain that they have been trying to get feedback for weeks from an unruly hiring manager! For the hiring manager, you can understand the logic – why waste more time if a candidate is unsuitable? However, surely this comes down to basic manners: if someone has taken the time to come and meet you, the least they deserve is a response.

There are more extreme examples. We heard recently about a candidate who, after receiving a verbal offer from a client (thankfully not one of ours) and agreeing a start date 4 weeks hence, received no paperwork and no returned calls despite chasing them for 3 weeks! Needless to say, he accepted a role with another business. There are numerous examples like this and let’s be clear, anyone working in recruitment is going to struggle to keep everyone happy when there are so many complexities and variables involved. However, I think it’s important that we remember that candidates are not commodities to be traded but real people with commitments, responsibilities and diaries to manage like the rest of us. If they are working hard to land a new role by being flexible and spending time going through a process, the very least they deserve is to be treated with respect.

Interestingly, the market is on the turn. There are more vacancies and we are seeing the best candidates get multiple offers.

When things return to a candidate driven market, as they inevitably will, the Candidate Experience may become a deal breaker for candidates who view this as an indicator of the professionalism and company culture of their potential employers.

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