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?      
 

Making the move into a Resourcing Career

After leaving university I, like many others, felt very uncertain about the career path I was looking to go down and where to get guidance from. If this is you, don’t worry you are not alone! I began to use the graduate job websites such as Milkround, Target Jobs and Indeed, to have a look at what was out there but I was still unsure whether I wanted to enrol onto a graduate scheme. There are a vast range of websites and tools you can use and to be honest it was a lot to take in. On graduation, I found myself in the leisure industry which I enjoyed for 2 years but ultimately knew that this wasn’t the industry for me long-term. When the opportunity arose to move into the world of resourcing and recruitment, I have to admit it was not an option I had considered before but I went into it with open eyes. It is fair to say that the recruitment industry does not have the best reputation. My initial views of a recruitment role were that the job involved a lot of cold calls to potential candidates, trying to contact them multiple times in one day, texting, emailing until you got through to them. My perception was that recruiters would send across your CV for a number of roles that may not even be suitable for you, suggesting a lack of knowledge around the role and as a candidate being unsuccessful on most occasions. I suppose my experience with a few recruitment agencies in the past meant that I thought all agencies were like this, but I now understand that this is not true. There is a lot more care and time taken in the process which I have learnt during my time with AdMore. So what does my role involve? It is hard to summarise the role into a sentence as it is more complex than you might think and the role often varies. In essence I would say it is a combination of three key components: Assisting in finding the perfect candidate - supporting the consultants in their search. In order to find this “perfect candidate” (ie. the one that gets the job!) it is important to first get a detailed and clear brief as to what the client is looking for and the culture of that company. It is all very well finding the perfect candidate on paper but they also need to fit culturally and finding the right balance can be difficult. Once the brief is understood we then go about using the various tools we have to start the search - this includes getting job ads out there, carrying out searches on social media sites and communicating with potential candidates. Along with this comes the challenge of keeping to strict timelines ensuring consultants have a good selection of candidates to speak with, as well as adapting the search to any changes within the brief. The first brief you search for may change during the course of the process based on feedback from the client and feedback from the consultant. It is key to keep up to date with these changes and keep communicating with the consultant to make sure this is fed through to the sourcing team. Social Media and Recruitment Tools - staying in the loop with the latest tools and advances in social media. Social Media plays a big part and is used in the sourcing team’s daily role. It’s continuously changing and keeping up to date with this is pivotal to our role and the way we search. There are the sites which most people will be familiar with such as LinkedIn or tools such as using Boolean strings in your search, but it is also about finding new tools which can open up new doors to find even more relevant candidates. A recent tool which has been very useful in our recent projects is called ‘Prophet’ and is an extension available on Google Chrome; the tool can be used with a LinkedIn profile and searches the web to find a relevant email address for the profile. Tools such as this help to save time in carrying out the usual email search process and can open up paths to even further information. The power of social media will continue to grow and within sourcing it is important to utilise this as much as possible. To check out our blog on what makes a great sourcer for more information; Click here. Continuous Learning From understanding the difference between area management and buying and merchandising roles to building your knowledge of the Retail & Hospitality industries, there is so much personal learning and development to do in the role. Particularly for those of us who have not had any experience in recruitment it has changed the way I look at Retail, Hospitality and Leisure. Even walking down the high street my eyes have been opened to a whole different side of things. With bundles of specialist knowledge in our team I am constantly learning new things everyday which helps me to better myself and improve my knowledge. Asking questions and making mistakes is all part of the learning and development process but it is all about pushing yourself to continue doing this. Has sourcing been the right move? Having been in the role for 6 months I’m happy to say that the move for me has been the right one; both in terms of the job and the company culture. My initial views of recruitment agencies has been changed and I now see that the right agencies will take time to get to know the clients and their company culture as well as understanding their candidates, their experience and what they are looking for in a role. Now I work in sourcing I have also had the opportunity to view the job search process from the other side. I have a better understanding of what is involved in finding the right person for a job and have also been able to use my previously negative experience as a candidate to create a more positive communication channel with the candidates I speak with. So if you have recently graduated from university and you find yourself in a similar situation to me, my advice to you is to take your time and consider your options. Make sure you do your research around an industry/company and don’t rule out industries based on reputation or hearsay - different companies have different cultures. It is important to find the right one that suits you and if you are open to a role within sourcing I would recommend taking the leap. For more tips on what to do when you graduate, check out our blog
 

How to research your interviewer

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

No matter how well you prepare for an interview (see our previous blogs here and here for some advice), there is one element which you will not be able to control – the person doing the interview!

Even in the most structured competency based interview, although designed to minimise subjectivity, you will be at the mercy of the interviewer and winning them over is a key aim in addition to demonstrating that you can actually do the job in question!

We have written previously about how you can build rapport quickly in an interview but what other measures can you take to impress?

Well, as ever, preparation is critical and in addition to doing your research on the role and the company, you should ideally research the person you are meeting. Here are some tips:

Make sure you have their name and job title

Sounds obvious but it is so important that you know who you are meeting. There is a big difference between meeting a junior member of the recruitment team, an HR Manager or your future boss. Each of these individuals will have a slightly different perspective and agenda. Here’s what I mean:

A junior recruiter – is likely to be conducting a ‘vetting’ interview to ascertain that you possess the key criteria for the role before they put you forward into the formal process. This could well be conducted over the phone. Click here for our advice on Telephone Interviews.

An HR Manager – will be focused on ensuring that the interview process is consistent and is likely to conduct a competency based interview as a result. Click here for top tips on how to pass a competency based interview. Their knowledge of the role in question will dictate how in depth the questioning is but one thing they will definitely be interested in is how you fit culturally with the company. They will be looking for potential issues (gaps on your CV for instance) so that they are confident if they ultimately put you forward to meet the hiring manager.

A hiring manager (future boss) – they will be focused on whether you can do the job, whether you will fit with the team (will they like you) and how soon you can start.

Once you have ascertained which category your interviewer falls into, you can tailor your approach accordingly.

General research

When you set out to research your interviewer, first reflect on what information you would like to find. Key areas may be:

  • Shared history (companies, sector, University, home town)
  • Shared interests (hobbies, training courses, education)
  • Clues about their personality and management style (overall tone, language used, anecdotal evidence)
 

LinkedIn is the obvious place to start to research your interviewer, particularly to understand what their career path has been and to see whether you have any common ground eg. companies you have worked for or mutual contacts.

Understanding which companies they worked for and when may give you insight into their experience and management style. For instance, if you know they worked for a company during a period of intense growth, this may indicate they have a strong entrepreneurial style and are used to managing change.

It is worth checking what University they attended and what they studied. Any school information will give you an indication of where they come from which can also be a nice introduction if you hail from the same area.

Reading testimonials, if they have any, will give you insight into what they are like to work with. It is also worth reading their recommendations of current and future employees as they will often include hints about the qualities they admire in a colleague or team member.

Try to look for key words and phrases that are repeated in the profile. As NLP practitioners would advocate, using these phrases in your interview (provided done so in a natural way) will help ensure your answers resonate with the interviewer.

Remember, if you are not connected to them, googling part of their Linkedin profile may enable you to view their complete profile.

Google Search can often produce interesting results particularly if your interviewer has been quoted in the press or has contributed to any conferences or industry publications.

The company website will sometime list detailed biographies of their senior team so it is worth checking this out too.

Twitter is increasingly used by recruiters to identify candidates and flipping this on its head, can be a useful tool to get ‘inside the head’ of your interviewer – providing they have a Twitter feed of course. This should give you snippets of insight about their interests and even sense of humour – all useful to help you build rapport.

PDF search Searching for PDF documents in a search engine is a great way of finding additional information for instance if the person in question has published any articles, presentations or attended any conferences.

Verbal References are useful if you have any links within your network to people who know the person in question either as peers, previous employees or managers. Clearly, discretion is important here – you don’t want word to get back that you have been interrogating a mutual acquaintance!

Director inventories such as the Institute of Directors or DueDil are useful particularly if you are meeting a Director for a small business.

Using the information

Once you have done the general research about the person and in particular their career history, you can start to make some deductions (although be wary of having too many pre-conceptions).

For instance, if the person has recently joined the company themselves, they may well still be adjusting to the culture and the successful recruitment of this role may well be a way to prove themselves internally.

Equally, knowing that the HR Director you are meeting was formally in a senior operational role should give you valuable insight – this is a powerful combination!

Using the information gleaned during your research requires thought and planning. Think about how you can build rapport quickly and establish common ground. Clearly the skill here is doing this in a subtle and natural way.

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How to pass the secret tests at an Assessment Centre

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

Having taken part in Assessment Centres as an assessor, a candidate and as an observer, it is my view that companies tend to approach the Assessment Centre in one of two ways. Either a. using the AC scores as the absolute measure of a candidate’s suitability and having an unwavering attitude to the pass/fail marker or b. using the AC scores as a useful indicator of suitability but taking other factors into account.

In the second case, the other factors are undoubtedly related to how the candidate performs as a whole throughout the day and this includes how they interact in between the exercises.

The challenge for a candidate is that it is unlikely you will know which of these camps the AC will fall into – so how do you make sure that you nail not only the formal assessment exercises but the informal elements too?

Do your preparation

If possible, get as much information from your recruiter in advance about what to expect on the day and who will be assessing. This will enable you to do your research about the key individuals in advance.

Equally, think of some topics of conversation to draw on throughout the day – this could be something relevant to the company eg. their latest results or simply a general news item.

Look for clues

You should have read the Job Description anyway, providing there is one, so re-read it and look for indicators about the type of person they are looking for from a behavioural perspective. Doing wider research on Linkedin, the company website and Glassdoor.co.uk will also give you insight so you can tailor your approach. For instance, they may be a very corporate business who will be looking for a more formal, polished approach. Alternatively, they may be a quirky, more personality-driven culture which may indicate a more unusual feel to the assessment centre.

Dress Code

Your recruiter should be able to guide you on this. Generally speaking, be prepared to wear business dress – it is much easier to remove a tie than magic one from thin air if you haven’t got one with you! As the day progresses, ensure you maintain your level of presentation – don’t be tempted to loosen your tie or take your jacket off unless the assessors specifically mention it.

First impressions count

This is as important here as in every other area of life and as ever it is the simple things that count. Greet everyone warmly with a smile and a firm handshake when you arrive – the receptionist, the other candidates, the assessors. Chances are, you will find yourself in a room with the other candidates over a cup of coffee and this can be an awkward moment, particularly as people often assume that they are in direct competition with each other. This may well be the case, however, by putting others at ease, you will help yourself to feel more comfortable. Also, in doing this (by asking questions, building rapport etc.), you will create potential allies who may come in handy later and to any observers you will get noticed as a positive influence. Please see our previous blog for more detail.

Drink lots of water Keeping hydrated is proven to aid concentration (but make sure you know where the toilets are?!). Likewise, ensure you have a decent breakfast and take advantage of any snacks offered throughout the day – an empty stomach can be distracting.

No smoking

It is a fact that popping off for a fag at every opportunity is unlikely to endear you to the assessors and most importantly is likely to mean that you miss valuable influencing opportunities. Equally, heading in to a small room for a role-play smelling of cigarettes will not go down well.

Turn off your phone!

I know of a candidate who, half-way through an assessment centre, took a call rejecting him from another role which he really wanted. He went into the next exercise, messed it up and consequently blew his chances of securing another offer. Make sure you leave a voicemail explaining you will return calls later and if you have to send a text message, ensure you do it in private. You must make sure you look completely committed and focused on the task in hand.

Mind your manners

This should be a given however I have witnessed potentially good candidates blow it over lunch with appalling table manners! If you have the opportunity, remember to thank the assessors or the facilitator for their hospitality. Courtesy should extend to your conversations – the skill is to bring people into the conversation taking care not to dominate.

Keep your wits about you

There can be a lot to take in but ensure that you understand the agenda and timetable for the day and also which room you need to be in for each exercise. In some assessment centres, particularly for graduates, part of the ‘test’ is how you manage your time throughout the day and they will put you under time pressure intentionally to see how you cope.

Avoid any negativity

As the day progresses, other candidates may start to express their thoughts about the process, particularly if they feel it is not going well. I witnessed a memorable exchange during an assessment centre when one of the candidates openly criticised the validity of the whole event in the middle of the group exercise?! Avoid negative comments at all costs and avoid sharing your opinions about the exercises, even if you agree. You should remain positive and energised throughout the day and give it your best shot irrespective of whether you are privately questioning the usefulness of the event.

Be interested

Whether you are talking to a fellow candidate or to an assessor during a break, show an interest in them. Ask questions – particularly important if you are talking to an assessor, so try to think of some good questions to ask about the company and the role you are applying for. Remember to listen actively. Remember interesting people are interested.

Be yourself

Like it or not, it is a fact that people tend to recruit people they like and get on with. Given the amount of time we all spend with our colleagues, this is actually no bad strategy, providing they can also do a good job of course! Avoid therefore, trying to be someone you are not. Assessment Centres are stressful and pressured and this can often cause people to behave differently than normal. Try to fight the urge to say things you think people will want to hear. If you can relax enough to get your personality across then this will really help the assessors to picture you in their team. Finding common ground will help build rapport so use breaks and lunchtime to steer the conversation away from work and towards extra-curricular interests. This will also make it easier for the assessors to remember you.

One word of warning, ensure you are remembered for the right reasons – an ill-judged joke will not go down well.

Use networking techniques

Assessment Centres can be great networking opportunities so be prepared. Quickly identify everyone involved – who the assessors are and where the other candidates are from – and ensure you seek out each individual, if only for a brief greeting. Take business cards to exchange. Follow up on the day by connecting on Linkedin.

A well-planned, relevant Assessment Centre can be an excellent way of assessing a number of candidates in one go and also gives the candidate a longer period of time with their prospective employer and the opportunity to meet a number of key stakeholders – very useful to determine whether you would fit culturally with the business.

This cultural alignment works both ways and understanding this will help you prepare to demonstrate your personal qualities in between the formal assessment activities.

For advice on how to cope with the formal assessment exercises, see my previous post on Role-Play Interviews, here and my colleague Russell’s post about the Group Exercise. Watch this space for advice about how to handle a Commercial Exercise…

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How to prepare a Retail SWOT analysis for your Interview

By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment
Asking candidates to prepare a SWOT analysis as part of the recruitment process is a popular selection tool to provide the prospective employer greater insight into the individual.
The SWOT you are asked to prepare could be about you, an aspect of the company’s business or the company as a whole. It could also be focused on or include information about their competitors.  In retail and hospitality it is a particularly popular tool to test an individual’s commerciality and market understanding. For the purposes of this blog I am going to focus on preparing a SWOT on a store or business.
It may be that you are specifically asked to complete a SWOT as part of the recruitment process or that you have decided to proactively prepare it to demonstrate to an employer your ability to research, your understanding of the business, market awareness and your eagerness to join the company!
So what exactly is a SWOT analysis?
SWOT is an acronym which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is an analytical framework to help summarise, in a concise manner, the risk and opportunities for an individual, store, business unit or overall company.
  • Strengths capture the positive aspects internal to your business that add value or offer you a competitive advantage.
  • Weaknesses are factors that are within your control but that detract from your ability to obtain or maintain a competitive advantage. They may be temporary weaknesses or strategic weaknesses that need addressing. Although these are the negative aspects, the more accurately you identify your weaknesses, the more valuable the SWOT will be for your assessment. It will help you develop a stronger strategy to improve and identify...
  • ...Opportunities presented by the environment within which the company operates. Successful organisations are able to recognize the opportunities and grasp them whenever they arise.  This is an area where you can really set yourself apart in terms of your creativity and commercial thinking.
  • Threats arise when conditions in the external environment jeopardize the success of the organisation. Threats are uncontrollable factors that change the dynamics of the market such as increasing competition or changes in technology which will impact the long term success of the business.
General Tips
So how exactly should you go about putting together a SWOT analysis?
In my experience, many find it easier to compile the external Opportunities and Threats before compiling the internal strengths and weaknesses.
When carrying out your SWOT Analysis, be realistic and rigorous. By rigorous, I mean try and use quantifiable information, rather than sweeping statements. Ruthlessly prune long lists of factors, and prioritize them, so that you spend your time thinking about the most significant factors.
Make sure that options generated are carried through to later stages in the strategy formation process.
Also you need to make sure you apply the SWOT at the right level – it may be that you are asked to complete one on a particular store, town or business.
Bullet points – in most scenarios you will asked to prepare the SWOT analysis in advance and to present it as part of your interview or selection process. Bullets are fine as you will be given the opportunity to expand upon these verbally.
Research for your SWOT
When preparing your SWOT there are a number of tools available to gather the necessary information. There is a vast amount of information out there to help you understand both the prospective company but also the market in which they operate.
A few suggestions would include: company website, store visits, competitor websites, previous employees and industry contacts.
This is not an exhaustive list and I can’t emphasise enough the importance of taking the time to research and truly understand the business and the sector in which they operate.
Below is a matrix with some suggested areas to look at under each heading. Again, this is just a guide to start you thinking about the right areas.
In my experience a lot of credence and weight is given to the SWOT analysis by clients and I have seen a number of very strong candidates fail to secure the right role because they have not dedicated enough time and thought into the SWOT. At the end of the day the SWOT is only a tool and it is worth being aware about some of the pitfalls of it as a technique and how this may affect your work. Some of the common negatives about SWOT analysis are:
  • Generally there is a lack of prioritisation of factors, there being no requirement for their classification and evaluation; it is worth making sure that when you present your SWOT that you provide some clarity around prioritisation.
  • Listing too many factors is often an issue – try and make sure you pitch your analysis at the right level.
  • Implementation – make sure during your commentary that you make comment about the costs/challenges of implementation.
  • Sweeping statements – during your commentary try and back up your statements with any data you have gathered during your research.
  • Analysis only at a single level (not multi-level analysis);
Whilst it is important that you highlight the key points in your matrix/presentation arguably the most important part is the commentary and detail you describe alongside. Again this will only be delivered effectively if you have thoroughly prepared.

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How to manage multiple job offers

By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.   Statistics released recently from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) indicate that the employment market in retail and the wider market is improving. As the market picks up and skill shortages in certain sectors start to appear, candidates may find themselves in a situation where they receive multiple job offers. For many this may be a new experience. So how do you manage this potentially tricky situation? Whilst most people would be envious of your dilemma, this could be one of the most important decisions of your life. So how do you go about making that all important decision and how do you manage the communication with all parties? There are no hard and fast rules but walking this potential tightrope ensuring your integrity remains intact takes some careful consideration. Below are some tips and considerations to help you make the right decision and ensure you communicate your decision appropriately to those concerned. MAKING THE DECISION What criteria should you use to help make your decision? A multitude of factors are ultimately going to affect your decision and undoubtedly it will be a complex decision to make so the first thing to do is to right down the Pro’s and Cons of the different opportunities. This will make the comparison between the two (or indeed more!) opportunities easier. Some of the considerations you need to make are as follows: Package I am often surprised by people’s focus on basic salary. The benefits packages on offer vary dramatically and in total may be worth as much as 50% of the basic salary. The best and easiest way to compare the two is to put together a spreadsheet providing a direct comparison in every area eg. pension contributions, holiday entitlement, single or family private health insurance etc. This must be looked at in totality to draw a full comparison. However as discussed above, the package should only be one element in the decision making process. Career Potential To me this is a really important factor in your decision but one that is ultimately very subjective. Most businesses will tell you that they can offer you a fantastic career path with lots of opportunities to progress however you need to ask how realistic this is. Through the interview process you should ask what examples they can give you of people who have joined and then progressed. Of course, progression will be largely down to you and what you deliver but it is still important to understand their views and policies around internal promotion. Location Let’s be honest, everyone would love the perfect job on their doorstep but in reality this is rarely the case. However, the length of commute is an important consideration both from a cost point of view but also from a time and work/life balance perspective. This should be weighed up in the context of other elements of the offer. Culture and Work/life Balance This is often linked to an individual and their values however company culture plays a big part. What are the expected hours of work, how people focused is the business really? What are their expectations of you? The more you can find out about a company and its culture through research and speaking to people in the business, the easier you can ascertain whether it is going to be the right fit for you. For further information on how to identify a people focused business, click here Line Manager In our careers we don’t always get a say about who we work for but as we all know it can make a lot of difference to both our success and our happiness at work. When comparing opportunities consideration should be given to who your prospective line manager will be. You should consider what you are likely to learn from them and how much will they assist you in your development. However, it shouldn’t be the over-riding reason because you may get a new boss in a month’s time. People you work with Similarly the people you work with are highly important. Do the people in the company seem like people you could hang out with? Do they seem interested in you and give you a warm and fuzzy feeling? Do you respect their professional backgrounds and accomplishments? Would you feel comfortable being part of their team? The company’s position in the market. Sometimes overlooked, but where does the company stand in its market and what sort of reputation does it have? This is of particular importance when you look to move on from the business and further your career elsewhere. Don’t underestimate the effect this will have on your marketability. Equally, the financial stability of the business and its future strategic plans are important as an indication of your own financial security should you join. Seeking the counsel of others I would always be sparing with your discussions with others (particularly current colleagues), however if you have a trusted confidant it can be very beneficial to gain an alternative perspective. They are likely to provide an impartial view without the personal attachment you may have developed. Use your instinct Weighing up two very similar opportunities is difficult and sometimes it will come down to listening to your instinct. If, after given the above consideration, there is genuinely very little to choose between them it may be a case of going for which one feels right or indeed turning down the one that doesn’t feel right. Sometimes it can be difficult to pin point just what it is however sometimes you need to be brave and go with your gut. COMMUNICATING YOUR THOUGHTS AND DECISION Deciding between two offers is one thing – managing the timescales and communication around them can be equally complex. Honesty is very important particularly when asked direct questions by recruiters or the company directly. Playing any sort of game is an extremely risky strategy as it could result in you jeopardising one or both of your offers. Whilst your objective is to get the right result for you, this needs to be done in a way that does not leave people feeling mislead. After all, you may turn a business down now for a variety of reasons but that doesn’t mean you may not want to consider them as an employer in the future. If, during the recruitment process, you are asked about other roles and offers, be honest but generic. It is generally considered poor form to get into specifics at that stage unless asked very directly. There is no harm saying you are interviewing elsewhere but that you would love to work at their company. If you need more time then ask for it – if companies genuinely believe you are the right person they should be prepared to give you a little time to make the right decision. It is important that in no way do you create the impression that you are playing one company off against the other. Instead, try to position it in a pragmatic and practical way, justifying your rationale and your reason. When you have made your decision, ensure that you turn down the other offer in a professional way. A telephone call followed up by an email to the Recruiter and the person who interviewed you thanking them for their time and for their interest in you is a good way to leave a positive impression. It will never be an easy situation to manage but just be very mindful as to how your actions are landing with your future prospective employers. It is a very small world and it is wise to avoid burning bridges as you never know when your paths may cross in the future. Finally, having made your decision and resigned, be aware that you may receive a counter offer from your current employer.  For advice about counter offers, click here and For advice about how to handle your resignation, click here  

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7 Tips for building rapport in an interview

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

I read an article late last year that has kept coming back to me in recent months. The article (a study by Lauren Rivera) from the December issue of the American Sociological Review suggested that Employers are often more likely to hire a person they would want to socialise with than the ‘best’ individual for the job. The article didn’t suggest that employers were hiring the wrong people, but that they would prefer to hire someone that they have bonded with, would perceive to be a future friend or who made them feel good about themselves.

Given the amount of focus on CVs, interview techniques, innovative job searches (etc, etc) most candidates could be forgiven for focussing on the ‘technical’ side of looking for a job. Getting ‘in front’ of an employer is for most candidates the primary focus and in an increasingly results driven culture it is easy to forget how important it is – to put it simply – that you and the employer like each other. Talk to any recruiter and they will confirm, if there is a shared past or common interest the candidate has a much better chance of getting the job. I believe this is particularly true in Retail where often there are no technical qualifications to differentiate one candidate from another.

So, if you are looking for a job, what can you do? Here are a few tips on how to build rapport and give you the best possible chance of landing a job offer!

  1. First impressions are crucial -  I wrote about how to create a great first impression (read here) in the first ten seconds previously. It is fairly obvious but if you don’t get the first impression right you will face an uphill battle to build rapport. You really want your interviewer to have an immediate gut reaction that they like you.
  2. Positive Body language – Smile, make eye contact, and lean in when you want to really engage. Again, you are appealing to the interviewer on a subconscious level. Where possible you should try to match your interviewer…
  3. Mirroring & Matching – This often seen as a bit of a ‘dark art’ but it is quite simple to do. The best way to learn how to do this is to just focus on one element at a time in every day conversations until you are a little more adept at combining several elements. Where possible you should match voice tone, speed and sound; breathing rates & body posture; speech patterns including specific buzz words and the level of detail. The interviewer will see a similarity in how you come across which was central to Lauren Rivera’s research.
  4. Use the person’s name wherever possible - There is a huge amount of research available but in essence people like to hear their own name. This is linked to how your brain reacts on a subconscious level and is linked to your development as a child. Read here for more information.
  5. Take a genuine interest in the interviewer and focus on them not the organisation - It is worth setting yourself some specific objectives about what you want to find out about the ‘person.’ The simple fact is that people tend to like talking about themselves. Be prepared to ask follow up questions and show genuine interest. Show empathy and indicate wherever there is common ground. Again, any chance you get to indicate commonality will give the interviewer the impression you could be a potential friend in the future.
  6. Similar activities , similarity matters - It is worth doing some research, via contacts and social media, in to what the interviewer does in their spare time and what they are passionate about. Are they a sports fan, do they go to the opera, do they have kids (and therefore do none of the aforementioned activities!)? Where possible you should get this in to the conversation. Once again, if there is a similarity of interests the interviewer will be inclined to move you up the shortlist.
  7. Compliment the person - Everyone likes praise (method of delivery is crucial for some though). If the opportunity arises give some compliments. Keep it relevant to the interviewer and try not to be too sycophantic!

Overall, keep in mind that you want to generate a sense of similarity between you and the interviewer.

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Can the launch of glassdoor.co.uk help you to identify your employer of choice?

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.   For those of you who are as yet unaware of glassdoor.com, it is a US based site whose aim is to create a community providing a source of information about prospective employers, job roles and salaries based on anonymous reviews from employees. They have recently launched their UK site, glassdoor.co.uk .

The format of each review comprises Pros and Cons and Advice to Senior Management along with star ratings given for the following criteria: Compensations & Benefits, Culture & Values, Career Opportunities, Senior Leadership, Work/Life Balance and CEO Rating.

It is a simple format and undoubtedly can prove a useful resource when researching companies or preparing for interviews.

Under each company profile, it includes a Recent News section which is useful for ensuring you are up to date with latest Press Releases, results or general news.

Understandably, the large, global businesses have the most reviews (often in their thousands) with some sectors being more broadly represented than others, particularly the Management Consultancies, Technology companies and Financial Services. I would guess therefore that reviews on these businesses are a pretty accurate reflection of working life within those companies.

Within Retail, the major UK brands are represented although many have a limited numbers of reviews – I’m sure this will change as more people in the UK become aware of its existence. Until there is a significant body of material on each company, I think it will be a while before it provides enough insight to accurately reflect what it is like to work for a particular company.

In their Community Guidelines, glassdoor are clear that participants should write balanced reviews without reverting to bitter or overly personal accounts of their own experience. Reviewers must be current or former employees of that business within the past 3 years and so there is reason to assume that the integrity of the reviews is good.

As always with reviews, you must take each contribution in context and look at the overall theme which emerges from a number of reviews. Other factors to bear in mind are the level of the person reviewing (junior candidates will have a different perspective than senior managers although their opinion is no less insightful or valid). Equally with the Interview section, where people provide sample interview questions and insight into their application process, it is wise to be cautious. Interview processes can change and your preparation still needs to be thorough enough to deal with any unforeseen eventualities.

We are all becoming increasingly reliant on reviews whether that is before booking a holiday or buying something and they can be an incredibly powerful tool. Recently, before leaving on holiday, I accidentally stumbled upon some Tripadvisor reviews on my destination. They were so bad that I was tempted to cancel, however I kept an open mind and sure enough, I had a lovely time albeit with my eyes wide open and expecting the worst! With something as important as your career, the more research you can do the better, and as long as you keep an open mind, glassdoor.co.uk should prove to be a useful addition to your ‘career toolbox’.

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What should your Recruitment Consultant really do for you?

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

So what should a good recruiter be doing for you?

Career Advice

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

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

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

Job Search

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

 Process Management

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

 Offer Negotiation

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

Post Placement

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

Conclusion 

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

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

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

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Top ten tips for candidates from Assessment Centre Veterans

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

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

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

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

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