Top tips for passing psychometric tests

By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment

Psychometric tests are now a commonly used selection tool. If you have never completed a test before they can certainly be daunting. Companies utilise these tests because they are designed to provide a reliable method of selecting the most suitable candidate although they are rarely used in isolation in the decision making process.  Some companies will use the tests as a screening tool by setting a benchmark which applicants need to achieve but others will just use it as an additional tool to assist in their selection decision.

Broadly speaking psychometric tests fall into two areas.

Aptitude:  These are generally focused on assessing your ability to complete particular tasks, assess your logical reasoning and thinking performance.  The market leader in these types of tests is SHL

Personality: These tests are focused on measuring the way you do things and the way you interact with your environment and with other people. It is argued that it is possible to quantify your personality by asking you about your feelings, thoughts and behaviour by categorising your responses.

Both tests are normally conducted on a multiple choice basis and are often strictly timed.

Aptitude Tests

Numerical Reasoning – these are number based tests that include basic mathematics, arithmetic and number sequences.

Verbal Reasoning – these tests focus on spelling, grammar and the ability to understand and interpret statements and paragraphs.

Abstract or Spatial Reasoning – these tests typically use shapes and diagrams to measure an individual’s ability to manipulate data and determine a solution.

Once a score is generated it is normally compared against a ‘norm’ group relevant to that particular position.

Personality Questionnaires

There are a range of personality questionnaires across the market with each focused on measuring slightly different aspects of an individual’s personality. The 16PF test is a commonly used tool of this nature. The vast majority are single user self administered although some provide the option to get 360 feedback from, Line Managers, Direct Reports and Peers.  They are also mostly preference based, some are focused on measuring key elements of an individuals personality such as assertiveness, warmth etc. Others will come at from a different angle such as Strength based tests such as Strengthscope which look at the tasks and activities that are most likely to energise you and lead to high levels of engagement and how these compare to the job profile for which you are being considered.  Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ)  by SHL is one of the most commonly used.

So what can you do to try and improve your score?

Top Tips

1.       Learn about the tests you will be completing – all too often individuals will assume that if they are strong at maths and comprehension then the tests will be a walk in the park. If they have completed psychometric tests before they may also assume that all the tests are the same – they are not. These tests are designed to be challenging and very difficult to complete. You will definitely benefit from trying to learn more about the particular tests you will be completing, exactly what they are designed to measure and how they will be conducted. More often than not the tests will be completed remotely so once you have been sent the link, you will have the opportunity to research the tests. Alternatively, if they are to be completed on site, perhaps as part of an assessment day, you are likely to be told in advance the type of test you will be completing. Familiarisation will definitely assist you when it comes to actually completing them.

 

2.       Practice in advance – people should practice for psychometric tests like they would any other tests yet in my experience people rarely do.  If you are aware that you may struggle or have a weakness in a particular area then make sure you focus your efforts to try to brush up in this area. Once you know the tests you will be asked to complete then you should visit their website and undertake as many practice tests as possible. As mentioned above SHL are one of the most commonly used tests. You can find some practice tests at www.shldirect.com/en/practice-tests  Where possible, focus on the tests that you will be completing but it is worth practicing other tests as all well.  I would recommend you spend as much time as possible doing these as it will impact your performance on the live tests. It is also worth doing this under timed conditions to make it as realistic as possible. This will also help you to start to learn the skill of balancing speed with accuracy which is critical in time pressured aptitude tests.

 

3.       Refresh your maths skills – for many people they may not have a role where they are required to regularly use maths. As a result it may have been a while since you have been required to complete percentages, fractions, ratios etc. Depending on the particular test, you may be required to perform some of these calculations so it is definitely worth practising and refreshing yourself on some of these techniques. Again this can be quite easily achieved through the wide resources online such as www.mathcentre.ac.uk

 

4.       Get yourself match fit – in order to perform well you need to make sure you are at your best. Tiredness for instance is likely to severely damage your scores in aptitude tests. So it is worth making sure you do everything possible to be as alert and focused as possible on the day of the test.  It can’t just be achieved the night before but if you have a period of time it is definitely worth thinking about mental activities which will help you with both personality tests and aptitude tests. Don’t underestimate the mental benefit you will achieve by using some simple exercises like Crosswords and Sudoku etc. to get yourself prepared.  You can also use other types of questionnaires and surveys to help develop your skills in reading questions, assimilating information and answering questions. Doing this under timed conditions could also really help.

 

5.       Make sure the environment is right – as I mentioned the majority of people may be asked to complete the tests remotely.  If this is the case then you need to think very carefully about creating the right environment to complete the test. This certainly means you need to be free of disturbance or distraction, where you are able to concentrate 100% on the tests at hand. Other things to consider include areas such as reliability of internet connection. Getting the detail right will hopefully allow you to perform to the best of your ability.

 

6.       On the day – managing your time on the day will be important if you wish to be as productive as possible. Time can be wasted fussing about running out of time or constantly clock watching. Instead you are better off just focusing on improving the time to complete the tests by practicing them over and over again.

 

7.       Don’t be a fake on the personality tests  - most modern personality tests are sophisticated enough to ask the same question in slightly different ways to ensure the applicant is being consistent with their answers and that they are not trying to portray themselves as something they are not. Businesses use the tests to understand both your suitability for the role but perhaps more often how you may fit in with the culture and values of the organisation.  Trying to be someone you are not may have the consequence of you joining a business where you are not a good fit and not naturally suited to the role.

 

8.        Ask for feedback – it is highly likely you will be required to complete psychometric tests again in the future whether that is when searching for a new role or indeed for an internal promotion. I would urge you to seek as much feedback as possible to understand where you have scored well and not as well as this should enable you to focus your development in the right areas. Companies will have accredited individuals who both administer the tests and interpret the results so they should be in a position to give you some detailed information. As I highlighted above, practice is one factor which has a real impact on your scores and therefore being able to focus on your weakest areas will only benefit you in future tests.

 

Hopefully I have suggested a few simple steps which will assist you in improving your performance on psychometric tests. For many they may be daunting or indeed mysterious if they have never faced them before. But as with many things in life through appropriate planning, practice and focus you can ensure that you perform to the best of your ability.

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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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15+ great website links for Retail & Hospitality interview research

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment

15+ Great Website Links for Retail & Hospitality interview research

Apparently Monday 6th January was ‘Massive Monday’ in recruitment (definitely not a reference to working at desks all year and eating stodge solidly for two weeks). I’m not entirely sure about that but I do get the sense that there is going to be a lot more recruitment activity this year than in 2013. The economic data would suggest that things are picking up, and the recruitment ‘churn’ is showing signs of gathering pace. We have certainly seen a significant change in a) mind-set and commitment to hire and b) the volume of vacancies.

So, if you have made a New Year’s resolution to look for a new position and you have written your CV (Free template here), then you may be close to securing an interview or accepting an offer. It is likely to be a competitive market this year so it is imperative that you set yourself apart with some good quality Retail & Hospitality interview research. Our clients generally feedback more favourably on the candidates that have clearly researched the company and the market vertical. You could of course ‘wing-it’ with a simple read of the corporate website and a quick google search, however if you are looking to go a little deeper it would be worth checking out some of these sites for additional analysis.

Industry Magazines: Retail Week / The Grocer / The Caterer / The Morning advertiser .

Industry magazines are still pretty much the top place to go when you are looking to build a base of knowledge or to read recent news stories. Depending on which sector you are looking to specialise in you may find there are other useful sites to visit, for example if you are looking for a job in Pharmacy retail it might be worth checking the Pharmaceutical Journal (not a light read!). The Retail Week site will require a subscription for detailed viewing but it might be worth doing so for a short period. There is a lot of information in their Resource Bank including a league table of over 200 retailers with detailed financial information.

TIP: If you want to access an article without paying a subscription fee you could try running the keywords (I just cut and pasted the headline below) through a search engine and then clicking the link to the site, hey presto you can read the full article!

Before:

After:

Glassdoor My colleague Sophie wrote a blog earlier in the year about the launch of the UK Glassdoor site here in 2013. If you haven’t seen the site before it is a ‘compare the market’ / ‘trip advisor’ combination for companies. There are reviews from current and former employees alongside interview advice for specific information. There are still gaps for many UK based retailers but you could get lucky with some of the information that is on there. Mint If you are looking for a greater level of detail in your research then Mint can provide information such as company hierarchies and financial performance that is unlikely to be in the public domain. You can get a free trial initially but as with other sites you will need to subscribe for the juicy information. I would advise that you only use this site if you are interviewing at board level given the potential cost involved. Conlumino , Planet Retail  and Verdict Retail are three companies that specialise in Retail analysis. As with other sites there are various options for either free information or subscriptions. They are worth looking at for predictions of future performance and analysis of business models. The Social Sites: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+. A lot of companies are posting content unique to those sites. To generalise, the majority are using LinkedIn for Recruitment purposes, Facebook for Consumer branding, Twitter for a combination and Google+…not so much. If you are looking for a job in Retail check out our FREE report on over 200 retailers for details on which Retailers are using which channel for recruitment purposes. If you are researching an interviewer ahead of an interview the above sites can provide an excellent level of insight. There are more tips for researching individuals here . We will also publish another blog with specific guides on how to use these sites later in the month. News sites For further analysis and recent news it would also be worth checking the FT, BBC, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. All have excellent business sections so there will be a good level of coverage for the larger retailers and of course a broader view on the economy. It always pays to add a broader context to any specific research you are carrying out. Duedil A great site for those candidates who are considering joining a less well known company. Smaller companies can be tricky to research and importantly you will want to understand their financial position before accepting an offer. Duedil offer information from companies house which you can access for free with detailed reports being available to purchase on an ad-hoc basis. Some of the information could be old though so check what you are buying before you make a purchase. Boolean search Finally, not a specific site but more of a search technique. If you are looking for very specific information then it might be worth running a ‘Boolean string search’. In essence this is a way in which to bring up targeted results on a search engine using specific text and key words. This should really be a last resort and there should be something very specific that you want to find! The link above will take you to a site that offers information on how to look at an individual’s LinkedIn profile via a Google search who is not a 1st degree connection. It is an advanced technique and perhaps one for the back pocket! There are plenty of other sites and techniques to keep in mind for both research and keeping up to date with industry news. I tend to use pulse on my phone to personalise various news feeds and ensure I can browse multiple articles more easily.

There are of course other useful sites which I haven’t mentioned, it would be great if you could add them in the comments below.

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Top CV writing tips

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

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

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

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

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

It’s all about you

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

Get the length right

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

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

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

Contact details

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

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

Give it substance

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

Beware of clichés and repetition.

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

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

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

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

Education and Qualifications

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

Check and check again

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

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How to survive a role-play interview exercise and live to tell the tale!

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

Role-play interview…these two words tend to send a shiver down the spine of most people. Whether called upon to do them as part of training and development at work or as part of an assessment process for a new role, chances are the very prospect will fill you with dread!

Fear not, like most things, by understanding what is expected and knowing how to approach it, you should be able to perform well. As someone who has had the dubious pleasure of taking part in role-plays as both candidate and assessor, here are some tips from me.

What is a role-play exercise?

A role-play interview exercise is in simple terms, an artificial simulation of a scenario. It is a way of replicating (albeit falsely) actions and behaviours in a specific situation in order to give a demonstration of how you may perform in reality.

Still widely used in assessment centre processes and training courses, they can be a useful way of judging how a person will behave in order to either decide whether they have the capability to do a certain role or in order to coach someone to improve certain behaviours. They are also a useful way of conducting a cultural assessment of a candidate.

What format will it take?

I am focusing here on role-plays used in an assessment or interview process however the basic principle is the same whatever the reason you are doing them. For the purposes of illustration, I am using an example of a role-play I wrote for a client’s assessment centre process which was used to assess Area Manager candidates.

You will get a brief outline of a scenario with details of the character you will be playing and an outline of the character you will be role-playing with.

For example:

You are an Area Manager for a home wares retailer.

Having joined the business 3 months ago, you are in the process of getting to know your store teams and are conducting detailed follow-up audits of all the stores in your area.

There will usually be some guidance about what you are trying to accomplish from the ‘meeting’ and further details to add context.

For example:

A recent visit to one of your previously top performing stores has identified several issues:

A marked decline in store standards since your first visit 6 weeks ago. Key issues are:

Cleanliness and health and safety in the warehouse and staff areas.

Poor presentation on promotional carousels and issues with availability on key, volume products (kitchen and bathroom basics).

The Store Manager, Andrew Smith, has been late on several occasions. The last time, he was 30 minutes late for a visit from the Commercial Operations Director so this has now been noticed at senior level. Andrew has worked for the company for several years and is well regarded. Until recently, his store has been consistently in the top 5 in terms of sales and mystery shopper scores.

You have arranged a meeting with Andrew Smith to discuss your concerns and investigate the situation.

It is likely to include guidelines about how much time you have to prepare and how much time you have to complete the role-play exercise itself.

For example:

You have 15 minutes to prepare for this meeting.

After 15 minutes, Andrew Smith (played by an Assessor role-playing ‘in character’), will arrive to begin the meeting. They will be joined by another Assessor who will observe the role-play and take notes but not take part in the role play.

You have 30 minutes to conduct the meeting.

How to prepare

Don’t panic!

Read the brief carefully. Take particular note of the timings and work out exactly how much time you have to prepare.

Read the brief again and this time, make notes with your observations.

For example:

Andrew - previous top performer…what has changed?
Store standard issues are all basic things so unlikely to be training issue – problem with store team? Delegation?
Why is he late? Issues at home?

Chances are, the role-play will have been tailored to a scenario you would be likely to face in your target role in which case, it is probably a situation that you have faced before in real life.

If this is the case, clear your mind and reflect on when you have dealt with a similar situation. Think about how you handled it, what you were hoping to achieve as an outcome and how the person you were meeting with reacted.

Think about what the assessors are looking for. If you are interviewing for a role where people management is key, then clearly, they are looking for you to demonstrate your skills in particular around communication, empathy, coaching and motivation. Think also about the culture of the organisation so you can adapt your style accordingly.

Equally, as an Area Manager, you will be responsible for overall standards in your area and in turn sales performance, so you need to make sure these issues are addressed immediately.

The assessors will therefore be looking for you to balance your soft skills with a focus on results so you will need to try to agree a plan of action to improve the situation.

Draw out a rough plan of what you would like to achieve.

This will help you focus on the key points and help you to remember to cover the important areas. Bear in mind however that you need to be prepared to adapt your focus depending on how the other role-player approaches their role. They may behave in any number of different ways and you will need to respond accordingly.

Warning: watch out for red herrings – you will undoubtedly be given lots of information, some of which may be superfluous or not relevant to this situation. Identify the key issues and focus on them – remember the main point is to identify the underlying problems which have caused them. The key to finding out what they are is to ask OPEN QUESTIONS.

For instance: "how is your day going so far?" "how are you feeling about your job at present?" "what do you think about the new stock loss procedure/promotion/overtime ban?" "how are your team reacting?"

The role-play itself

Once you have sketched out your plan and thought about your options, it is time to get ‘in the zone’!

This is where you need to ‘suspend your disbelief’. By this I mean that you have to get into character and do your best to forget that you are in an artificial situation. In doing this, you will make it easier for yourself to behave in a natural and ‘real’ way and it will help alleviate any feelings of embarrassment or silliness that you may be feeling. By throwing yourself into the role-play and going with the flow, you are more likely to give a good account of yourself.

Bear in mind that the other role-player is likely to be in character too so if they knock on the door, answer it in character and start your performance!

  • The first thing to do when you meet your ‘opposite number’ is to greet them and offer them a seat.
  • Try to behave how you would in reality. The danger is to launch into your questioning straight away but you should not forget the importance of building rapport and setting the scene. Ask them about their day so far…
  • Assess their body language – are they on the defensive, are they stressed, are they very upbeat or nervous? These observations will help you assess how the role-player is approaching the task and how you should approach the situation. For example, if they are defensive, resist going straight onto the offensive. Instead, spend more time building rapport and breaking down those walls.
  • The temptation is always to make assumptions and move straight onto developing an action plan without really understanding the issues. You MUST start by asking numerous questions. Get them to do most of the talking in order to find out what is going on.
  • Ask OPEN QUESTIONS, make sure you are actively listening, reflect back to them to show you have taken on board what they have said. A good role-play assessor will modify their approach depending on how you are treating them so they should start to give you some clues.
  • Depending on how good an actor your partner is, you should by now have an idea of what approach is going to get the best result.

 

If you have ascertained that someone is under pressure due to personal circumstances, it is important to listen and offer support. Ask the person what would help them to move forward – do they need a day off to sort things out? Would they benefit from working reduced hours for a short period of time? Clearly, you have to be careful about making promises you may not be able to deliver on or wouldn’t have the seniority to authorise however, it is important to think of practical steps which the company could take.

  • Once you have dealt with the root cause, it is important to address the operational issues in store. Again, avoid going on the attack and try to get the person to acknowledge their own shortcomings themselves. It is then much easier to offer support and offer to put a plan in place to help them to improve.
  • The action plan should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable (or Agreed), Realistic), Time-specific). Try to make this a collaborative process to ensure ‘buy-in’ from the person.

NB. It is however important that you make it clear that standards MUST improve immediately. Set a date by which you want the improvements to be made and arrange a follow-up meeting.

  • Keep the overall tone supportive and motivational. If you can combine this with a clear action plan and a zero-tolerance approach to poor standards, you will have achieved a good result!

Dealing with a ‘difficult’ character

Depending on how the company want to assess you, they may try to catch you out by briefing the role-player to be purposely objectionable. This is particularly common (and appropriate) when assessing for sales roles.

Again, assess body language so you can see any difficulties coming and make allowances for this in your preparation. If dealing with an irate customer for instance, remember the importance of listening, empathising and calming them down before talking about what you can do to help.

In the case of a difficult staff member, keep HR best practice in mind. If they are indicating that a disciplinary procedure may be required (perhaps in the case of Gross Misconduct for instance), you may need to approach this in a more structured way.

Other points to remember

  • Stay in character – even if you are faltering, try to stay in character rather than slipping out of character and addressing the assessors directly. It is always better to keep going.
  • Keep track of time and ensure that the meeting reaches a conclusion within the timeframe. Don’t rely on the assessor to warn you when your time is up.
  • Use positive body language in particular a firm handshake and a smile.
  • Remember that the role-playing assessor is likely to be as uncomfortable as you! It is an artificial situation which few people relish – this should help you control your nerves.

I hope this helps. For further advice on navigating the interviewing process, please read our other articles in the Career Management section.

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A Retailers guide to looking for a job in 2014

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment Looking for a job in Retail has continued to grow ever more complex throughout 2013 and promises to continue to do so in 2014. As a recruiter I sometimes forget what it must be like to be a candidate coming on to the market for the first time in 5 years. In 2008, the last peak in the market, it was pretty straightforward - you wrote a CV, uploaded it to a job board and waited for the calls to roll in. At the senior end of the market, you met a few head-hunters and kept an eye on the broadsheets. Fast forward 5 years and the recession, coupled with technology, have completely changed the landscape. According to the BBC, at the entry end of the Retail Jobs market you are more likely to be assessed by a machine than a person!  www.bbc.co.uk/news/business Unfortunately, once you have beaten the machine you will then need to perform a David Brent style dance: currys-graduate-job-applicant-humiliated ! For C-suite and Board Directors not a huge amount has changed. There are of course fewer jobs and perhaps still a few too many candidates but all in all it isn’t that much more complicated. You’ll need a good Social profile, but in terms of how you look for a job you just need to dust off the little black book and make some calls. Having said that, the one key change will be looking for a job in the press. You won’t find much in the Sunday Times - the Appointments supplement is, well, not much of a supplement these days. For those in the middle, managers up to Board level, it just gets more and more complicated. So we have compiled a short review of the various methods you can employ that will hopefully save you some much needed time for interviews and research!

 The Three routes to market

Social LinkedIn has changed the jobs market in the same way Monster, Reed et al did in the early noughties. It has become a giant candidate database for agency and in-house recruiters while at the same time masquerading as a Social hub…oh and there are some interesting stories on LinkedIn Today…no wait, I mean Pulse. In 2014, if you are a candidate, passive or active, you absolutely must have a profile on LinkedIn. Ideally it will be accurate too! There are a few things to remember:
  • If you are actively looking for a job and you don’t mind your contacts knowing this then you should unlock your LinkedIn privacy settings.  This acts as a ‘mating call’ to recruiters, think of yourself as a peacock! Just to be clear, you don’t have to accept the advances of every suitor! TWEET THIS
  • Your LinkedIn profile should match your CV. Using inaccurate job titles or forgetting a recent job move or two will sow seeds of doubt in Recruiters. Honesty is the best policy. Also, please do not spell MANAGER as Manger – it doesn’t do you any favours!
  • Keyword optimisation, or SEO, was once the preserve of tech-savvy geeks. Adding a sprinkle of keywords is now de rigueur for your Social profiles and will ensure you can be ‘found’ a lot more easily. This is particularly recommended if you are on LinkedIn to catch up with contacts, ahem, and well you might get the odd headhunt approach too…
  • I advised last year (click here for the 2013 suggestions) that getting active on LinkedIn via LinkedIn Today and the Groups would improve your chances of being ‘noticed.’ As the recruitment world starts to get busy again, and do some real work, in 2014 I think this will yield fewer results. I am not saying stop participating altogether, just don’t expect a strong ROI on your time.
  • WARNING: If you have a Line manager or a recruitment team on LinkedIn there is a strong chance that they will also notice your activity on LinkedIn. I have spoken to a lot of candidates in the past few weeks that have been specifically told to remove the LI app from their company phone/laptop or have received ‘special’ attention as a result of their online activity. Likewise, several HR clients have indicated that it is something they watch with interest. The level of awareness on LinkedIn has changed dramatically in 2013 so it is worth thinking about what you are happy for people to see.
Twitter continues to grow its user-base and as a Retail & Hospitality recruiter it offers the next most interesting opportunity to engage and identify candidates. Twitter tends to sustain longer ‘conversations’ than LI and it is easier to develop stronger relationships as a result. Also, if you are an ‘active’ candidate you can get away with a bit of banter with recruiters and employers without coming across as overtly looking for a job. Perhaps more interestingly you can research prospective employers far more effectively as people tend to give a bit more away.
  • Don’t forget those all important keywords. Company name and Job title should just about do it!
  • Follow the companies and leaders of the companies that you are interested in. It is also worth following a few industry experts and key figures too. You’ll find that there is often better content on Twitter than LinkedIn which might help with research for interviews.
  • If you are keen to follow up on a job application, you’ll find that asking a question on Twitter is a good way of getting a prompt response. Bear in mind this is all in the public domain though!
  • Overall though, it is worth bearing in mind that most Retailers have not got a dedicated twitter careers feed – in fact only 21% of over 200 Retailers surveyed: Social Recruitment in Retail: 2013 Report
Facebook / Google+ / Pinterest / Friends Reunited (only kidding, whatever happened to them?) – each of these sites have their merits but in recruitment terms they are really not worth your time. In the same report: Social Recruitment in Retail: 2013 Report we found that just 24 retailers had a dedicated Facebook careers page. Of the 24, less than a dozen were what one might describe as active. Facebook does have aspirations to become a tool for recruitment and with data that is available it may well become important in the future. A couple of points below to bear in mind.
  • Be wary of posting anything too controversial on any of the above sites. Facebook does tend to elicit more candid posts than the other sites. Employers have begun using this site for research into prospective candidates so it is worth keeping this in mind when you get home from the pub in the middle of the night.
  • Pinterest is particularly popular in the design world so if you work in fashion or perhaps buying it would be worth looking at setting up a profile. For everyone else – it should be for personal use only!
My final point is that despite the hype, Social recruitment is a long way off being the most effective way of securing a position. Indeed a recent report from recruitment firm Kelly Services found that just “11% of UK workers had got a job through social media – a much lower figure than elsewhere in the world. - See more at: http://www.recruiter.co.uk/news/2013!” Adverts & Applications Actually looking for a job in 2014 will be more complex than ever before. The job boards and specialist press have taken a hammering over the recession and while not a huge amount has changed there is perhaps a more even spread of positions than before the recession. With no one dominant player you will need to cover a lot of ground. A few points to consider:  
  • I wouldn’t bother too much with the printed press. Any industry magazine of note will now have a matching job board. As for the Newspapers, well, you have better things to do with your time!
  • There are a LOT of job boards to choose from now so in no particular order it is worth checking the following….take a deep breath: Inretail, Monster, Total Jobs, Retail Choice, Retail Week, The Grocer, Drapers, Reed, The Ladders, Indeed, Jobsite, Exec Appointments, Executives on the web, guardian jobs, Grapevine, The Appointment, Property Jobs, Property week 4 jobs, MAD, Marketing Week, Personnel Today…oh and LinkedIn has jobs too (IT IS NOT A JOB BOARD….honest).
  • Set up alerts for each of the boards relevant to you and ensure the alerts go to an email account that you check daily. 2014 will be a busy year and if you don’t get your application in early the chances are you will not be considered.
  • Wherever possible personalise your applications. A simple ‘Hi, how are you?’ does wonders.
  • I would also advise against loading your CV on to the boards if you are at Middle management level or above.
Agencies Everyone loves dealing with agencies so this will be the most enjoyable part of your search! Ahem. Like us or loathe us we have survived the recession and have come out leaner and unfortunately in some cases meaner ;) than before. In Retail and Hospitality the agency count has increased significantly with lots of specialists (AdMore included) springing up like mushrooms. In fact it seems that just as one large player departs the market several new ones grow up overnight! The job boards were supposed to kill agencies, and then LinkedIn was too - well we are still alive and recruiting. We have written about how to manage your agency relationships previously (Click here) so I won’t go over old ground but there are a couple of key points to consider:  
  • Start the relationship building now. Good recruiters will spot the candidates who make an effort in advance and are much more likely to go in to bat for them if they feel valued. Recruiters are often accused of being transactional, but it cuts both ways!
  • If you are passive in your search then 2 or 3 good relationships will suffice. If you are active or ,worst case scenario, out of work you will need to get in touch with a fair few agencies. There are no dominant players in the market currently so you need to ensure you have a decent spread. Either way, start with AdMore (click here to learn a bit more about us)!
I hope this helps and as always please get in touch if you have any questions.  

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

 
 

8 golden steps to building your career network

By Russell Adams,AdMore Recruitment

Networking is in many respects a misunderstood area. To some it is a slightly mysterious, perhaps even murky world. To others it may simply be making the effort to stay in touch with people you have worked with in the past.

So what exactly is networking? Networking isn’t about collecting business cards. It is about having a group of individuals who you have a relationship with. Importantly, more often than not these are mutually beneficial relationships where there may be the opportunity to share knowledge and information for mutual gain. People often network without realising and as expected, it takes a number of forms. It can be as informal as catching up with ex-colleagues once a year through to joining a formal networking group perhaps centred around your expertise or indeed your local area.

Many people look to network when they decide to look for a new job. It is viewed as a valued technique to gain access to opportunities. By utilising your network you can leverage powerful support from those around you to assist in building your career. For instance by accessing more job opportunities or indeed gaining endorsements for applications you are making. Many people underestimate this aspect of job hunting, yet various statistics point to the fact that between 60 – 85% of roles are secured through networking. The biggest mistake most individuals make is that they only start "actively" networking when they are looking for a role. For many it may be too late to assist them on this occasion.

Networks are based on relationships and take time to build and develop. Click here to Tweet This

So what is the best way to go about building your network?

Step 1

Develop a networking plan - In order to get the most out of networking and in order to maximise your time it is a critical you have a structured plan. It is worth setting yourself some short and long term goals and this will shape your tactics. It may be that in the short term you are looking for a mentor, some like-minded individuals or indeed to break into another sector. Your plan should include both formal and informal networking.

Step 2

Make a list of contacts and make contact – this should be a list of both the people you already know and those who you should be in contact with. Developing a list of target individuals who you feel it would be beneficial to be in contact with is critical to your success in networking. Far too often people are just reactive to networking opportunities and not proactive in targeting the right individuals. Once you have your list, careful consideration should be given to how to best make contact with them. Ultimately this will depend on whether there is any form of relationship in existence? LinkedIn is a brilliant tool that most people don’t fully utilise. Not only can you use it to look up individuals but also use your existing network to get new introductions. It is critical that any communications are polite and upfront about why you wish to make contact, perhaps explaining why there may be mutual gain by connecting. I cannot emphasise enough that you must approach people in the right way. Try to make it about them, offer to help them. If you ask for help straight away it is unlikely to go down well.

Step 3

Use social media – I have mentioned LinkedIn already but Twitter is also a fantastic tool. It can help you identify movers and shakers in your space as well as give you the opportunity to join in the debate and raise your profile. Another consideration should also be writing some blog posts about your sector. My only word of caution here is don’t hide behind the technology. Social media is a creative way to start new relationships but it is important you move this rapidly to ‘proper’ conversation in order to fully leverage the relationship.

Step 4

Depth of relationship – in order to be able to leverage your network it is important the relationships you have developed are strong. Mutually beneficial relationships, like any relationship needs work. People often underestimate how much time and effort is required. Will your contacts go out of their way to assist you?

Step 5

Maintaining relationships – Given how busy we all are it can be difficult to find the time to fit in hours of networking but it doesn’t have to be like that. It will not always be about picking up the phone, it might just be a quick e-mail or indeed a short text. Don’t underestimate the impact – people will really appreciate the effort you are making. It is important for you to be seen to act with integrity and conviction. If you say you are going to do something, then do it.

Step 6

Leveraging relationships – One of the key benefits to building your network is gaining access to job opportunities. Even though the job market is improving, many opportunities are still being filled through companies directly sourcing and accessing the networks of the individuals currently in the business. From the employer’s perspective this type of candidate pool has been pre-qualified and won’t involve a recruitment fee. Where you have close relationships it is worth discussing your career plans and aspirations to see how individuals in your network may be able to help.

Step 7

Gain an endorsement. A major benefit of your network could be to get an endorsement. If you are pursuing a particular opportunity, do you know anyone in the organisation that would be willing to endorse you? Alternatively is there anyone in your network who may know the line manager who again can endorse you? You cannot underestimate the positive effect this will have on your application.

Step 8

Feed your network - it is important that you continue to invest in your network at every stage of your career. Failure to put time and effort into feeding your network means that it will not grow. You cannot just make time when you are looking for a new job. You need to develop and grow your relationship when you need nothing from them.

Although I have focused on this area, networking isn’t solely about furthering your career, there are many other benefits. Talking to people in your sector is going to help you in terms of building market knowledge and understanding any industry wide changes that are taking place. It could also be that there are some benefits in terms of contacts that may help you in your non working life. Most of all it should be enjoyable. You will have a natural affinity with some individuals and will hopefully develop some strong and beneficial relationships.

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Interview tips for Graduates and School Leavers

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

I had a ‘milestone’ birthday recently. Not so much key to the door but needing to change the locks! It has made me rather reflective. It seems only yesterday that I graduated and started frantically applying for jobs, partly because of pressure from my parents who were keen for me to start earning as soon as possible but mainly so I could maintain the independence I had started to appreciate at University and which was being decidedly cramped by moving back home to share a room with my younger sister.

With an estimated one in five 16- to 25-year-olds currently out of work (according to figures from the Office for National Statistics)it is so important, with competition so fierce for fewer vacancies, that candidates give themselves the best possible chance of impressing at interview.

As a company, we recruit at executive level however, we are regularly asked by our contacts or indeed our own friends and family for advice on behalf of people starting their career, so we thought it was worth revisiting these key points:

Look the part

Unless applying for a role in the creative/performing arts or in creative media, the dress code for any corporate interviews will be business dress. It is still the case that people make judgements based on appearance and so you must make sure that you look impeccable. This doesn’t mean getting into further debt buying an expensive suit. High Street stores like Next, M&S and Primark do classic suits at incredible prices. Shirts should be clean and ironed, shoes clean and polished. If wearing a tie, learn to tie a proper Windsor knot (a big fat knot or a skinny tie won’t look corporate enough, neither will a tie which finishes half way down your shirt!). Click here for a video guide to Windsor knots from our friends at House of Fraser!  Hair should be clean and tidy. Gents – you should be clean shaven – no excuses. Keep jewellery to a minimum and tattoos well hidden. This isn’t about stifling your individuality rather than ensuring that what you say is what is remembered rather than how you look.

First impressions

You wouldn’t believe how many people don’t greet an interviewer with a smile. This is SO important and will say so much about you as a person and about how you will potentially be perceived by future colleagues, customers and clients. It is widely accepted that people hire people they like and so, like it or not, one of your jobs in an interview is to get them to like you as well as demonstrate your suitability for the role. Your smile should reach your eyes and this will also help you overcome the inevitable nerves.

Practice your handshake. There are people, myself included, who have a negative opinion of someone with a weak handshake. It simply speaks volumes. A firm handshake with a warm smile and eye contact says several things. That you are confident. That you want to be there. That you are interested in the person you are meeting. You will only fully realise the negative effect of this when you are on the receiving end!

Body Language

Approximately 70% of communication is non-verbal and so take care that your body is not letting you down! Sit up straight, don’t fidget, keep hands relaxed on your knee. Don’t lean too far back – you may look too laid back or even worse, arrogant. Getting your posture right will make you look interested, keen and confident even if you are very nervous!

Do your research

Not doing your research on the company is unforgiveable. Information is so readily available online and you should learn quickly where to access that information. The company website should give you oodles of information (but take care not to recite this in the interview - it’s too easy, you need to show that you’ve worked harder to set yourself apart from the crowd). Look for press articles, make sure you understand who their competitors are and how they are performing. Research your interviewers on Linkedin. Check out Glassdoor.co.uk for employee reviews and interview tips. If you are applying to a company led by a well known figure, make sure you have read their autobiography. A classic (if a little clichéd) interview question is ‘which business leader do you most admire and why’. To give an answer without having done your research will not set you apart from the masses.

Difficult questions

There are many different types of interviews ranging from structured competency based interviews to informal ‘audition’ style assessment processes. One thing is certain, you will be faced with some questions that are really tricky. This may be because they are ‘off the wall’ eg. if you were a biscuit what kind would you be (yes, this really happened!) or because they are potentially controversial eg. "why did you drop out of your course/switch courses?"

Again, there are plenty of resources online which give examples of tricky questions so doing your research will help. If the worst comes to the worst and you simply go blank, simply say "I’m sorry, I need to reflect on this question, please could we come back to it later?" This will buy you some time which is useful for those ‘abstract’ questions. If you simply do not know the answer, then say so. Trying to blag your way through could leave a negative impression. Also, the ability to be honest about what you do and don’t know (while showing a willingness to learn of course) is a quality most employers will admire and understand in a school leaver or grad.

Know your subject

If you are applying for a University place or a Grad Scheme and have completed a Personal Statement focusing on your interest in a specific subject, make absolutely sure that you can elaborate in detail about any points you make in your statement. You can be sure that a savvy interviewer will focus on these points and chances are, they will know more about it than you. By reading around your subject and keeping abreast of current affairs, you should avoid getting caught out. For instance, if you are applying for a place at medical school and mention your deep interest in a field of medicine, make sure that you know of any medical advances that have been made which have hit the headlines. Equally, if applying for a Grad scheme at a major retailer, make sure you know the current share price and the latest profit results. You may also be asked for your opinion so again, be prepared to explain your position on potentially controversial subjects which involve taking an ethical standpoint.

Know yourself

Interviewing well is a skill that can be learned and of course honed with experience. However, even in your first ever interview, the one thing that you should be able to talk confidently about is you. This does take some preparation however. Sit down with a blank piece of paper and write down your achievements (at school, university or in your spare time). Think about what made you successful and what you enjoyed about these successes – was it the sense of achievement you felt when you completed a project or was it the buzz of working as part of a team? What role did you play, what did you do well and what could you have done better? Ask your parents, teacher, tutors, friends and peers what they consider to be your strengths and weaknesses and think about how you can ‘package’ these to be attractive to a prospective employer. Remember, you are there to sell yourself and the key to selling anything well is to know the ‘product’ inside out. Most of all, you must be passionate about it!

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

 

How to prepare an interview presentation

 

By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment

Interview presentations are often used as part of the recruitment selection process particularly to differentiate candidates applying for senior roles. They are most commonly used at the later stages of a recruitment process when the field has been narrowed and the interviewers are looking to make a final decision. The presentation topic might be about you and what you will bring to the role, a particular issue the client faces or the future of that industry or marketplace. Getting your "pitch" right in this situation is not always easy but can be an excellent way for you to set yourself apart. It can be a daunting experience for many but with some thought and preparation you can ensure you present yourself in the best possible way.

Below is some guidance that may help you in your preparation.

Understanding the brief – You can be the best presenter in the world but if you do not fully understand the brief and aren’t clear on the expectations the interviewers have, then you are potentially setting yourself up to fail. If you are using a recruiter, make sure they are able to give you the required information. If they cannot answer your questions then make sure they seek guidance from the client. If you are dealing directly with the client then I would suggest you make a list of questions to ask so that you only have to talk to them once. Going back constantly with lots of questions will not reflect well on your ability to plan. It is crucial that you repeatedly check that your presentation answers the presentation topic.

Questions to consider

  • How long should the presentation last?
  • Who will be present at the presentation?
  • What is the expected format?
  • How clear is the presentation title – do you need to clarify?

Know your audience – it is absolutely imperative that you find out exactly who is going to be at the presentation. With multiple individuals you need to consider the different agendas they may have and their level of knowledge and expertise to ensure that you pitch your content at the appropriate level. It can be difficult to cater for individuals from different functions, however try to establish the key decision makers and ensure you tailor your presentation appropriately.

Points to consider

  • Think about how you can ensure all angles are covered i.e. if you have both Line Managers and HR present how can you ensure that your presentation appeals.
  • Your presentation may also be to individuals of varying seniority – make sure you get the correct level of detail but draw this together taking consideration of the strategic elements
  • Research the individuals online, there will be a wealth of information on LinkedIn and Twitter that will give you a taste of individual preferences.If you want to get a little more complicated search media interviews or try a ‘boolean’ search for PDF documents.

Timing – it is really important that you know in advance how long your interview presentation should last or be expected to last. Trying to cram in too much information into a short period of time is one of the most common mistakes. I recently had a candidate who sent me his 20 minute presentation which included 35 PowerPoint slides! Getting this element right is critical to your success.

Points to consider:

  • It is difficult to provide a definitive guide as it will depend on the presentation but as a broad guideline you are likely to need a minimum of 3- 5 minutes per slide.
  • Less is more – ensure that the slide just provides highlights and is not crammed with text. In fact it could be just a picture or even one word – it is about using different ways to get the message across.

Substance over style - Beware of high tech imagery and animations (unless of course you are going for a role in IT!) Being serious though, lots of imagery can be distracting for your audience and may dilute the messages you are trying get across. For most roles, the interviewers are much more likely to be interested in the content of your presentation (which is an opportunity to display your knowledge and experience) than it is about style. That said, you must ensure that your presentation is interesting. Try and break up the slides a little so that you don’t have slide after slide of heavy text. If the organisation is considering a number of candidates and the interviewers are sitting through a number of presentations, think about how can you make sure your presentation is memorable?

Points to consider:

  • Work within your comfort zone – if you are comfortable with using animations etc. that is great but if not, be wary and ensure you are comfortable with the format you have chosen.
  • Try and break up slides of text using picture, diagrams or images. Using single words and images can be a powerful way of reinforcing your message.
  • Make sure you check and check again for spelling mistakes.

Message – You need to identify the primary message you want to deliver. This will determine the structure that you follow and needs to be clear and consistent throughout your presentation. Another common fault is the temptation to cram each slide with information in order to help the audience remember all the key points. Using the presentation as an autocue is a sure way to switch the audience off. In short you should have a strong introduction and a memorable ending. Think about what it s that you want your audience to take away from your presentation.

Points to consider

  • Delivering a great presentation is all about structure. You need an engaging opening giving an overview of your presentation. Consider how you can capture the hearts and minds of the interviewers. A memorable close is also crucial.
  • Use occasional anecdotes to build rapport with the interviewers and reinforce part of your message.
  • Point –reason – example – point – use this simple structure to provide convincing and reasoned points.

Format – again this is an area you should seek to clarify in advance of your meeting. The setting, the number of people attending and their expectations are all factors that may affect how formal or informal your presentation should be. This can range from using a projector in a board room (in which case you may be expected to take along your laptop or perhaps a memory stick with your presentation on) through to a printed hand-out to one person in a small interview room (and of course everything in between).

Points to consider

  • Don’t just go for the easy option involving the least work. The client will be looking at the effort and energy you have put into the presentation as a sign of your commitment and interest in the role.
  • Also take multiple printed copies of the presentation.
  • Email a copy of the presentation to the recruiter in advance to allow for any technical glitches!

Keep it authentic – I recently had a client give feedback on a candidate’s presentation saying that it was one of the best she had ever seen in terms of style and content. However, she felt it was a little too slick and perhaps a standard format that had been used in other interviews. It is crucial that the presentation is written for the interview and not a ‘cut and paste!’

Points to consider:

  • There are a number of techniques to make it personal and authentic. The use of stories and examples ensure relevance to the interviewers can all help in this regard. It is particularly important if the presentation is about you rather than being about the company you wish to join.
  • Include your own photos, particularly if you are presenting for a Retail position.

Practice and practice again – the most effective presentations are those that are delivered without the need to read word for word. Presentations are definitely an area where time invested pays off. Lack of preparation will definitely hamper your performance. It is important that you run through your presentation out loud. Ideally this would be in front of a friend or even videoing yourself to ensure that you can critique your performance.

Points to consider:

  • If you only run through your presentation once then you are highly unlikely to deliver a great presentation.
  • Time yourself when practicing to ensure you are within the time frames given.
  • Don’t memorise your presentation word for word – being too slick makes it less engaging. However you must know the content inside out – using cue cards will mean you are looking down at the cards and not engaging with the interviewers.

Presenting style – this is a widely written about subject. Just remember to present with confidence, energy and enthusiasm. Take your time – one of the most common errors is rushing. My personal view is to always stand; I think it allows you to inject more energy and command of the room.

Points to consider:

  • If you are offered a glass of water then accept it as you may need to drink part way through your presentation.
  • Breathing techniques can used to control presentation nerves. Try not to speak too quickly and allow yourself to breath naturally. Just imagine it as a conversation with one of the interviewers.
  • Try and move around during your presentation to engage and interact with the interviewers – although you should avoid pacing.
  • Modulate the tone, pitch, and speed of your speech. Do not speak in a monotone. Vary the pitch and speed of your voice for emphasis and effect. Use appropriate pauses. Rather than using filler words such as "uh," for example, simply pause before moving on to the next idea or point.
  • Make sure you try and show passion and energy in what you are delivering.

Questions – it is easy to forget sometimes in all the planning and preparation that you will be asked some questions at the end. Try and think what questions you would have if you had just heard your presentation and prepare your answers accordingly.

Points to consider:

  • The questions are likely to be focused on your recommendations, your analysis and observations. They are likely to probe how you have come to those conclusions so you need to be prepared to discuss this in detail.
  • If the presentation is about you and how you would perform in the role then be prepared to provide examples if asked.

 

Hopefully some of the guidance above provides some simple but effective tips to delivering a great presentation. Most of the advice above is common sense but despite this we see all too often great candidates forgetting some of these golden rules and falling in the ‘Death by PowerPoint’ trap.

I do accept that some people find presenting much easier and natural than others but unfortunately it continues to be a well used tool in selecting candidates.

With time effort and preparation you can hopefully ensure you deliver a convincing and stylish presentation.

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

 

Top tips for an On The Job Experience interview

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

So, you’ve had great feedback from your first interview and are on track for a final interview. Before that is confirmed however, there is the small matter of an OJE to get through.

An OJE (on the job experience) is regularly used as part of the recruitment process in the Retail & Hospitality sectors and typically involves spending anything from a few hours to a whole day, out in the field or in store, getting a feel for the role you are applying for and the culture of the company.

It can take many forms. Irrespective of the level of role you are applying for, you may be asked to work in store to see what it’s like at ‘grass roots’ level. You may be asked to go out on the road with your line manager or alternatively, with a prospective ‘peer’. Whatever the format takes, this part of the recruitment process is fraught with potential pitfalls and can cause you to come a cropper!

Drawing on our years of supporting candidates through these stages, here are some tips to help you prepare and get the best from the experience:

If you are spending the day at ‘grass roots’ level, perhaps working on the shop floor or in a restaurant, the key is rolling your sleeves up with the rest of the team. Build rapport with your colleagues and make it clear you are there to learn and find out about the company (now is not the time to share with them your thoughts on how things could be improved…).

  • Talk to customers about their experience. Talk to staff at all levels. Remember to smile!
  • Get a feel for what is done well and what the opportunities are for improvement – you may well be asked about this if you are invited to final stage.
  • You can be sure that the team will be asked for their feedback so bear this in mind. You may have interviewed well, however this is where they want to see if you can ‘walk the walk’ and apply your skills in the real world.
  • Be vigilant too. One of our candidates famously did an OJE at a funeral services company for an Area Manager role and had the misfortune of spending the day with a member of staff who had missed out on a promotion to the very role he was applying for. Such was the extent of her wrath that she took great delight in showing him some of the more ‘grizzly’ aspects of the role – he is still having nightmares to this day!

If you are invited to spend a day on the road with the line manager or someone at their level, ensure you are prepared with a raft of insightful and intelligent questions. This is an effective way of showing your interest, enthusiasm and knowledge whilst getting them to do most of the talking. You could well be with them for several hours so be prepared to maintain your energy and focus – no mean feat!

  • Chances are they will be taking you to visit key stores on their patch and this will undoubtedly include some high performing stores and some with performance issues. Your ability to assess different stores and draw conclusions from your observations is clearly part of the test. In preparation, it may be useful to familiarise yourself with the format for conducting SWOT analyses, click here for more info.
  • Remember, you need to strike a balance between giving an accurate analysis and using diplomacy, bearing in mind that the state of the area as a whole will reflect ultimately on your companion for the day! That said, missing out glaring  issues will raise questions about your operational capability so it is more about how you deliver this information.

Spending any time with a prospective peer is tricky. You need to navigate any potential political minefields and to do this, you need to assess the situation at the start of the day. By asking the right questions, you should be able to gauge how open you can be with the individual and what their own situation is. Remember that they will hopefully be a future colleague and winning an ally at this stage could prove invaluable. The rule about diplomacy applies here too – being overly critical of one of their stores will not go down well so focus on the positives and only give negative feedback if specifically asked. If you feel that you can be relatively frank, this is also a great opportunity to ask questions that you may not necessarily ask in an interview situation eg. what is the work/life balance like?

Finally, some practical points to consider:

  • Make sure you have a decent breakfast – you don’t know how long it will be before you have lunch and it may be difficult to grab a snack along the way.
  • As with any interview, plan your journey and know who you are meeting. Having their mobile number is useful too.
  • Make sure you have cash in case you want to buy your companion a coffee en route.
  • Dress appropriately, particularly if spending the day in store – you need to be comfortable and need to mirror the rest of the team. Your recruiter or HR contact should guide you on this.
  • Clear your diary for the day. An OJE can often over-run and you don’t want to be worried about getting to another meeting later in the day.

Good Luck!

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