Candidates: what to do when two agencies submit your CV for the same role

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

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A few years ago, I was looking for a new job and so, after years as a Recruitment Consultant, I was a candidate again, experiencing all the frustrations involved with looking for a new role as an In-house Recruiter. One of the biggest of these was dealing with recruitment agencies, a situation made all the more uncomfortable by the fact I worked for one!

The experience of being on the receiving end of varying levels of service from agencies made me empathise with candidates and hopefully made me a more considerate recruiter as a result. Don’t get me wrong recruitment agencies are an invaluable source of support, advice (and fundamentally, jobs!). However, there are ways to get the best from them as we have written about previously here. Equally, in a highly competitive market with a myriad of agencies competing for a limited pool of (strong) candidates and jobs, issues can arise, particularly when you are dealing with multiple agency contacts.

One of the main issues faced by candidates is when you are briefed on the same vacancy by two different agencies.

This problem arises when companies brief the same role to multiple agencies in the belief that this will be the most effective way to fill their vacancy. Whilst it has its advantages from a market coverage point of view, it also has some downsides. Sometimes there my be a lack of focus on the part of the agencies who have less incentive to work on the role and the potential brand damage that can occur when the impression is inadvertently given that the client is a. always recruiting (and therefore has a high staff turnover) or b. is desperate, disorganised or both. In reality it happens frequently and inevitably leads to agencies competing for the same candidates. Unfortunately for the client, this often means that the process comes down to speed (how quickly the agency can submit CVs) rather than quality (these are the right candidates for the role/business).

So what impact does this have on you, the candidate? As long as you get an interview, that’s all that matters, right?

Of course, your aim is to get a new job however when this happens you can find yourself the ‘piggy in the middle’ with both agencies claiming ‘ownership’ of your CV. This can put you in a difficult position with the agencies and sometimes the company themselves who have the unenviable task of sorting the mess out. It also makes you look desperate, disorganised or both!

So what can you do when faced with this situation?

Prevention is better than cure

There is a fine balance when job hunting, between casting your net wide enough to cover the market and taking care not to dilute your own personal brand in the marketplace. There are a limited number of vacancies in the market and it is impossible that one agency has (legitimate) access to all of them. Beware those that claim they do! It makes sense therefore to work with several agencies who you believe will represent you correctly and who have a strong network in your chosen field.

Choosing to register with more agencies than this could make life more complicated for you and will certainly require you to be more organised. More conversations to have (repeating the same information), more calls to take and more chance that an agency will misrepresent you and potentially damage your reputation in the market. If you do decide to go down that route I would highly recommend you set up a spread sheet where you can track who has spoken to you about which opportunity. Less is most definitely more in this situation, and by keeping close control over who you work with and who you allow to represent you, will minimise complications along the way.

Quality of the brief

Agencies tend to work in one of two ways. They will either be briefed by their existing client on a specific vacancy (they are likely to be on the company’s Preferred Supplier List - PSL) or they will approach companies speculatively with candidates they feel will be of interest. When approaching companies speculatively, the agency will either send your CV to a senior line manager in the hope they are tempted by your strong experience or alternatively will send your CV in response to hearing about a specific vacancy or seeing it advertised.

Either way, you need to be sure of which approach the agency is taking whenever they brief you on a role. If the approach is speculative, they should be open about this – it can be a highly effective way of placing candidates before a job vacancy reaches the open market especially when the consultant has a strong relationship with their contact.

However there is always a risk that the approach will come to nothing and, even if they know a vacancy is there, if they have not been legitimately briefed, they may be blocked from working on the assignment.

If an agency has been briefed legitimately, they will be able to give you specific information about the scope of the role, the salary, the reporting structure and interview process. If the client has provided one, they will be able to send you the Job Description. The agency’s job is to give you as much information about the role and company so you can decide if you would like to go forward. They should be selling you the opportunity but equally should be able to say why this could be a good move for you. By asking the consultant specific questions about the role, structure and business you will get a sense about how close they are to the business. I would also suggest asking them whether they have the role exclusively.

How will you be represented?

You can tell a lot about an agency and the individual recruitment consultant by the quality of questions that they ask you to understand your experience, track record and overall aspirations. Bear in mind that if an agency hasn’t taken the time to talk to you in detail about your CV and job search in general, they will be unlikely to be able to ‘sell’ your skills effectively to their client!

Give your permission and keep control

You should always know where your CV has been sent, whether in response to specific vacancies or speculatively. This enables you to keep track of your job search and know which agency is representing you for each role. It also ensures that you do not apply directly to a company that has already received your CV from an agency.

If you receive calls from different agencies about the same vacancy, try and clarify who has legitimate access. Once you have given your permission to be submitted, ensure you get confirmation from the agency that they are sending your CV for the vacancy and ideally confirm this on email. Ensure you are transparent with other agencies about who is representing you. That way, everyone knows where they stand.

Referring to my earlier comment about speed, be warned, there are plenty of agencies who will send your CV first and speak to you about the role later. This approach is fraught with issues for you as a candidate and is just poor practice. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to know an agency has done this until you receive a call from the company or the other agency telling you that you have been submitted twice.

What do you do when it happens?

Despite all the above, this situation happens time and again and can be for a number of reasons. Perhaps one of the agencies has sent your CV without speaking to you about the role and the other agency has taken the time to brief you properly and seek your permission. Understandably if unfortunate, companies often apply a ‘first past the post’ rule with applications and so all too often it is the agency that send you first that get to claim the fee, even if they have added no value to you or the client.

Many companies however will leave this to candidate preference and so will ask you to confirm who you spoke to first and who you would like to represent you. They may need you to confirm this in writing.

When making this decision, consider the following points:

  • Who has the best understanding of you, the role and the company?
  • Who has handled the situation in the most sympathetic way? Be wary of an agency who is aggressive or who puts you under pressure.
  • Who do you confidently feel will represent your interests in the best way.
  • Do you have doubts about the integrity of the individual involved?

If one agency comes out on top then you have your answer and are quite within your rights, like any customer, to decide which service provider you choose.

If you have a good relationship with both agencies and cannot decide between them, then you simply need to confirm which agency first spoke to you about the role in detail and let the company know.

Knowing how to handle this situation will mean that you can maintain positive relationships with the agencies involved and protect your reputation with the potential employer. Most importantly, if you do feel you have been poorly represented or have been submitted for a role without your permission, you can take the necessary steps with the culprit!

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Interview questions you may be asked at Operations Director level

By Russell Adams,AdMore Recruitment

Before focusing on some of the questions you are likely to be asked at interview, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of preparation for interviews at Operations Director level. Whilst people always talk about preparation, senior candidates need to ensure that if they are interested in pursuing a role, they are able to dedicate enough time to present themselves in a credible way. You are likely to be put through a robust and probably lengthy recruitment process which will be designed to test and stretch, assessing both your capability and cultural fit for the business you are considering joining. Leadership, management style and culture are critical at this level, as is the need to fit with rest of the executive or leadership team. In addition to the traditional interview process, it is highly likely you will undergo psychometric testing and a possible assessment with an Occupational Psychologist. These steps are designed to provide a rounded picture of you as an individual from an intellectual, personality and capability perspective.

My personal opinion is that as the interview process moves forward, the importance of preparation increases. The risk for senior candidates is to assume that their experience will speak for itself however this is a highly competitive market and you must be able to provide evidence to back up your track record and be able to demonstrate your behavioural qualities which are so critical in a senior position.

I recently met a senior candidate to talk through his preparation for a third interview. Having met the client twice, he was in the position of understanding the three areas of potential concern the client had about him as an individual and his ability to deliver in this role. As a result he had used a "mind map" to develop a clear plan and strategy of how he would provide evidence to the key stakeholders in the next interview to overcome these concerns. By completing this preparation and seeking the counsel of others he was giving himself the best possible chance of overcoming these potential objections.

During the selection process clients will be looking to identify your capability across a number of key competencies and will question you accordingly. I have listed some of the major competencies below and some questions that you could possibly be asked:

Leadership

Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal. In today’s world it is accepted that it is about engaging individuals to maximising their discretionary efforts. From a client’s perspective they are looking for you to provide evidence of how you have led your team to deliver great results.

Typical leadership questions may include:

  • Why do you believe you are the best person for the role? Although somewhat crude at a senior level, it is about the individual’s ability to illustrate a clear view on what they feel they can bring to the position.
  • How do you inspire others around you that are looking to fill your shoes?
  • When have you found recently that old solutions no longer work?
  • Describe a time where your team did not agree with your proposed course of action, how did you manage that situation?
  • How have you communicated your Vision and ensured your team are fully engaged? How have you measured this engagement?

 

Strategic Insight

Being ‘strategic’ in simple terms is having the ability to develop a plan to gain a future advantage. From a client’s perspective they will be looking to assess your ability to think in time, i.e. that you can hold past, present and future in mind at the same time to create better decision making and speed of implementation. Also, that you have the ability to create, analyse and implement a clear strategic vision and plan.

Typical Strategic Insight questions may include:

  • What will stop you achieving your goals?
  • When you envision your business in three years - what does it look like and what will it take to get it there?
  • What do you foresee as the possible future in your sector and potential opportunities that you may be able to exploit through your business's product or service?
  • How do these ideas and decisions tie in with your company's mission, vision, and goals?
  • As you develop a strategic vision for your organisation what are the key criteria that you should focus on?
  • How do you adapt your leadership style in a growth business versus in a turnaround situation?
  • What is your opinion on our current strategy? What would you do differently?

Change Management

This could relate to change in the mission, strategy, operation or culture of the business. The economic downturn has forced most businesses to adapt and change and there continues to be considerable structural change in the retail sector. These challenges have required businesses more than ever to rethink the way they do business. Clients will want to understand examples and evidence of where you have delivered change within an organisation. What actions did you take, what challenges you faced and how these were overcome.

Typical Change Management questions may include:

  • What’s the biggest risk you have ever taken? How did you mitigate this risk? Did it pay off?
  • What are the most common reasons why change fails in most organisations?
  • When have you broken the rules in order to deliver the right result?
  • How have you restructured your business to ensure it is "fit for purpose"?
  • How has technology changed the way in which you approach your role?

 

Stakeholder Management

Stakeholder management is about managing relationships with a broad range of individuals or groups who have a vested interest in the various outcomes of the business. Your ability to effectively manage these challenging and sometime conflicting relationships is essential when operating at a senior level.

Typical Stakeholder Management questions may include:

  • How have you sought to gain the buy-in of your fellow directors to your strategy?
  • How do you deal with underperforming peers who are impacting your business?
  • How have you utilised Social Media to engage different groups?
  • How have you balanced the short-term versus long-term demands of investors?

Commerciality 

Commerciality concerns your ability to exploit business opportunities and deliver great results. It is imperative that you know your numbers inside out as you are likely to be questioned hard about the results you have delivered and how you have achieved them.

Typical Commerciality questions may include:

  • How is your business performing year to date?
  • How does this compare to other regions, divisions or competitors.
  • What is your lasting legacy at company X?
  • In the last three years how have you balanced the need to cut costs whilst delivering for the customer?
  • What action have you taken that has had the biggest impact on sales?
  • Explain our brand?
  • Who do you view as the biggest competitive threat to our business? Why?

  

General questions 

  • What are you looking for in an employer?
  • Why do you feel you have succeeded where others have failed?
  • How do you ensure your team are bought into your vision and company strategy?
  • How would you deal with one of the direct report’s for this role who believes this role should have been theirs?
  • What are you going to do if you are unsuccessful in securing this role?

 

Fundamentally the client is measuring you on the evidence that you provide, your ability to articulate that evidence, the results you have achieved and how these have been delivered.

So, preparation is key – whilst you aren’t going to be asked all of the questions listed, you will undoubtedly be asked about questions covering these competency areas and it is critical that you have prepared examples and are clear about the messages you wish to convey.

As a client said to me yesterday, "I can only assess the candidate against the evidence she gave me during the interview…"

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Be a S.T.A.R. at interview – use the C.A.R!

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

When attending any interview, there is a significant amount of preparation required if you are going to give yourself the best possible chance of success. Each interview process will have its unique elements and navigating these different styles of interviews can be a challenge in its own right!

Irrespective of which format the interview takes, you need to be prepared to answer the questions in the best possible way. This isn’t just about saying the right thing; it is about structuring your answer in the right way and providing tangible evidence so that the interviewer is absolutely clear about what you are capable of.

One of the biggest mistakes people make in an interview is talking too much. If you have a good interviewer, they should be allowing you to do most of the talking however it is important to strike the balance between verbosity and clarity! There is nothing worse as an interviewer, than meeting a candidate who you know can do the job but who either cannot express their abilities clearly enough or who bores you senseless with overly long-winded responses!

So, what can you do to prepare yourself to answer questions thoroughly and succinctly?

The most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance and this is the reason Competency Based interviews are so widely used. It is worth brushing up on Competency Based Interviews in general and ensuring you have a good idea of which competencies the interviewer will be looking to assess for a particular role. Click here for some general advice

Once you have drawn up a list of the competencies needed to do your target job, you should then create your list of examples of how you have demonstrated each competency. This will give you confidence that, whether the question posed is about Leadership or Problem Solving, you will have a mental list at the ready!

The next stage is to get your structure right and this is where the CAR or STAR formats can help you.

A Competency Based Interview asks you to outline how you have performed in a specific situation in the past. Using the CAR or STAR structure will enable the interviewer to get the detail they need from you in the limited time available.

The STAR format tends to lend itself to more complex examples where there is greater detail required and where you need to guard against being too long-winded.

The key to each of these is to break down each example into the relevant section. It encourages you to separate out the Context of the situation from the Action you took. Most importantly, it makes you focus on the end Result. What did you actually achieve? Can you back this up with specific figures or percentage increases?

By working through each of your examples in this way, you will find that you naturally adopt this clarity of style. As ever, you will get better with practice and rest assured that your interviewer will appreciate your efforts!

Doing this well will make you credible and enable the interviewer to visualise you in the role along with providing tangible results to reinforce your examples. Hopefully, it will also mean that, however structured the interview, it will flow well and give the interviewer time at the end for more informal questioning.

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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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Top tips for how to write a CV

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

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

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

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

Which format to use

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

Beware the over-formatted CV

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

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

How long?

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

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

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

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

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

Which order?

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

Contact details

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

Content is king

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

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

Education and Qualifications

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

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

The cardinal sin

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

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

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

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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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Top 10 tips for a successful Telephone Interview

top 10 tips for a successful telephone interview_141915112While we have seen an increase in the use of Skype and other video based technology it would seem that the use of the Telephone Interview is back on the rise. It is an inexpensive method for judging cultural and or behavioural fit and is often the first stage in recruitment processes; Forming the backbone of a labour intensive campaign or quite simply an ‘informal chat’ for a senior executive. It is however, full of pitfalls for candidates. Here are ten easy to follow tips that will ensure you create the best impression possible.

1) Get the Environment right:

Try to avoid conducting the interview in a busy, noisy environment or indeed in your car. A private office where you will not be disturbed is perfect. Too many telephone interviews are interrupted by questions from colleagues, or the barista behind the counter at Starbucks! Ensure you allow enough time for the interview and do not assume it will be a ‘quick ten minutes.’  Use a landline for receiving the call. Poor mobile phone reception is the single biggest reason why many telephone interviews fail to take place. While they are technological wonders, our mobile phones are surprisingly unreliable at the worst possible time when it comes to their most fundamental function; making and receiving calls.

2) Prepare.

This is a fantastic opportunity to have your notes and CV in front of you during the interview. Make sure you summarise your notes focussing on key points to avoid scripted answers.

3) Sit in front of the mirror.

This may seem a little odd but quite simply it will give you an indication of how you are coming across. Do you look animated? Is your head up? Perhaps most importantly are you smiling? If not then try to focus on doing so, this may translate in you feeling more confident and therefore sounding more positive!  Alternatively you could try standing up and walking around. If you are more comfortable walking and talking then ensure you are in the right environment to do this. Many people feel they are more animated when upright and this allows for a greater level of focus.

4) DO NOT actively listen when asked questions.

A common mistake to make, however actively listening in a telephone interview can disrupt flow as you will find the interviewer may stop talking. This can lead to a disjointed and awkward conversation.

5) Ask the interviewer to rephrase or repeat back the question.

If you are slightly uncertain about the question either ask the interviewer to rephrase or indeed paraphrase this back. You should try to avoid doing this repeatedly but it is better to get your answer right first time.

6) Use regular pauses.

Leave healthy pauses after every two or three sentences to allow the interviewer to either drill further down or confirm they have heard enough.

7) Vary your pace, pitch and tone.

It is very difficult to convey energy and empathy over the phone so it is important that you vary your speech. The monotone interview is the bane of all interviewers!

8) Practice a CV run through.

The structure of telephone interviews will often vary but a standard format will be CV based. If you are asked to run through your career history you should qualify how long this should last. Do they want a 30 second elevator pitch or a detailed 30 minute conversation? Either way, plan ahead!

9) Build rapport early on but avoid too many jokes!

As with all interviews first impressions count. Good interviewers will try to break the ice early on. Reciprocate and avoid coming across as ‘cold.’

10) Ask Questions.

Like most interviews you will get a chance to ask questions. If an interviewer has a solid day of telephone interviews you will probably stand out more if you ask an insightful question about the business/role and more importantly about them.

 

I hope this helps and as always feel free to add some suggestions to the comments below.
Jez Styles