An inspiring day at Smart Resourcing 2013

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

What do you do when your Retail Employer brand needs a refresh?

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

The most challenging, and by it’s very virtue interesting recruitment is often when you are resourcing for an employer whose brand does not quite match up with candidate perceptions. This can work two ways. A business may have a great employer brand but in truth be a difficult to place to work and develop a career. Conversely, there are many businesses that have a poor employer brand but are actually a great place to work. This mismatch often arises for two key reasons; firstly businesses change - a company may have had a high staff turnover previously but due to a change of CEO/HRD the underlying problems have been removed. The second reason is that many people confuse the customer brand with the employer brand. Yum! Brands (The parent company of KFC) are a great case in point. Potential employees think ‘fried chicken?’ but do not necessarily know the fantastic, employee- focused career opportunities they offer.

So, what can you do to educate candidates?

I was recently invited to a Retail networking event at Harrods. I’ll declare my hand early; I used to work in Harrods. It was an amazing experience and I can honestly say that it was the most theatrical and exciting place to ‘retail.’ However, it would seem that many candidates do not see Harrods as being an employer of choice. Following a period of change at Harrods (click here for more information) the Resourcing team have decided that now is the time to win hearts and minds.

The event was by invitation only (thanks to Linda Treen for the invitation!) and was aimed at attracting the top talent from retail that had thus far declined to attend a formal interview. It was typically Harrods - held in the Georgian restaurant where we were offered some beautifully crafted bacon rolls served with coffee and tea. The Retail Director, Paul Thomas, kicked off the day with introductions. This was perhaps the most powerful part of the day. There were 8 Harrods employees present; they came from Asda, Zara, Tesco and a collection of large and small retailers. Not the typical luxury backgrounds one might expect. They also had interesting career paths; it would seem that the path from Operations to the Support functions was well travelled. I guess that is the benefit of having the core of your business and its supporting Head office within a few miles of each other.

Following the introductions, a chap by the name of George Hammer talked about his own experience of setting up the Urban Retreat salon concession in Harrods. George is a classic entrepreneur and was quick to cut to the chase. Harrods is not an easy place to work quite simply because the standards and expectations are so high. As he put it, if you want to work somewhere spectacular you will have to take a risk. This is an interesting point, as this is absolutely about confidence. If you are confident in your ability then why would you not be successful? His most memorable quote being; "be exceptional, do not be average." George is clearly an extremely successful entrepreneur, he was the founder of Aveda amongst many other concerns, however he seemed to connect with the audience and many of the candidates present were clearly impressed by his honesty and his passion for Harrods.

Paul Thomas went on to talk about his own career path (Asda - Saturday boy to Store Manager, Sainsburys, Harrods Food Hall) and then fielded some questions. Paul was candid about his own decision to join Harrods with the admission of a wobble during his notice period prior to joining – had he made the right decision?  He was keen to tackle the negative perceptions within the room. A few candidates opened up and to Paul’s credit he dealt with these in a way that encouraged others to raise their own concerns.  He talked about the operational roles being narrower, yet deeper, than normal. He discussed perceptions around a more mature workforce and the ‘stuffy’ stereotypes. He noted that in the four years since they have started measuring employee engagement, they have seen a marked improvement in scores. This willingness to meet these questions head on certainly engaged the audience.

I noted with interest the number of candidates that were keen to formally register their interest in Harrods following some further informal conversations. I suspect that the Resourcing team were slightly surprised to get such an immediate result. Jenny Parry, Head of Resourcing, told me that she was primarily hoping to get the message out there that Harrods is evolving.  Judging by the reaction from the candidates attending, I think they certainly achieved this. It would be interesting to know what other retailers are doing to actively manage their employer brand in what is proving to be a period of intense change in the retail industry, comments below please!

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

 

Top 10 tips for preparing for an Interview

1. Get the basics right! Ensure you know who you are meeting, where you need to be, how you are going to get there and what the dress code is. Matching the company’s expectation regarding image is particularly crucial if you are attending a meeting with a fashion business, but equally don’t turn up ‘suited and booted’ for a meeting with a DIY retailer! Ensure you have relevant contact numbers in your phone should you run in to problems. 2. Who is interviewing you? You can give yourself a real edge in an interview if you have researched the individuals you are meeting. If you have managed to secure an interview there is a good chance you have the experience to do the job so your ‘fit’ becomes critical. You should try to find out a little about the background and personality of the interviewer. This should enable you to build a good level of rapport early on. There is plenty of information available on internet searches and you should utilise your network to fill in the gaps. It is crucial that you fully understand the organisation’s culture, values and long term goals.

3. Know your experience.

Try to ascertain what the structure of the interview will be and prepare accordingly. For instance, most interviews will be ‘competency based’ incorporating structured questions. Typically, you will need to provide specific examples of how you have demonstrated the competencies required for that specific role. This type of interview does call for preparation so that you aren’t left fumbling for decent examples. Write down key examples of how you have dealt with situations relevant to the role, such as, people management or strategic planning. This will help you remember what you have achieved and ensure you analyse exactly what you did to achieve a result. This will really pay off in the pressure of the interview.

4. Prepare insightful questions.

If an interviewer is undecided whether to progress your application, the quality of your questions could swing it your way. Clearly you will want to know about the individual and company you might be joining however avoid basic questions about benefits or working hours. Instead focus on areas that indicate that you have thought deeply about the role and how you might be able to add value. This is an opportunity to demonstrate behaviours that you might not have been able to highlight in the interview. Take a notebook and pen with you and record key information, this will demonstrate a professional and considered approach.

5. Be clear about why you are applying for the job.

In the current environment there is some scepticism about why people change jobs so you need to ensure you do not allow any confusion to arise. Be clear and specific about why you want the job you are interviewing for. This should be positive, regardless of circumstance, and leave the interviewer feeling like you have targeted her/his business specifically. If you have been headhunted…avoid using this as an answer, it can sound a little arrogant!

6. Ensure your Linkedin profile, CV and interview answers are consistent.

If you work in a target focused environment and quote dates and achievements ensure that they match up! It is very easy to become complacent about what you have achieved so it is worth ‘revising’ your career to date. If you state in your opening paragraph on your CV that you have excellent empathy skills you need to demonstrate this throughout your interview in the way you communicate with your interviewers and how you recount experiences from the past. In short, ensure your ‘brand’ is consistent!

7. What will be the most awkward questions you will have to answer?

A good interviewer will spot potential weaknesses in your CV and interview answers as much through what you don’t mention as what you do. If, for example, you have failed to achieve a cost reduction target, ensure you are honest about the reasons why but most importantly talk about what you have learnt from this experience and what you would do differently. Think about your ‘soft spots’ ahead of the interview.

8. Research the business and the industry.

How has the industry changed in recent years, are there any external factors such as government legislation that is likely to make a significant impact? What is the company doing differently, what projects are they involved in? This will give you an opportunity to ask a couple of questions that will demonstrate the quality of your research. Try not to be controversial however  try to indicate you have a rounded view of the macro economic environment.

9. Visit the business.

If you are interviewing with a business with a customer facing offer such as a retailer you should visit several sites. Appraise the business from an employee, customer and competitor perspective. If you have a negative experience, do not be afraid to share this in an interview, however present this constructively as an opportunity to capitalise on.

10. Be yourself.

It is crucial that you do not do or say anything that you are uncomfortable with. Ultimately if you find yourself ‘acting’ there is a high probability that the company or role is the wrong fit for you. You should come across as ‘rounded’ and try to give an overview of what else you are involved in outside of work. Common ground outside of work will often work heavily in your favour. Think about what you are comfortable with sharing ahead of the interview and how it will be interpreted.

Jez Styles