10 Mar 2020

Working from Home....the reality!

I set up Perfect Marketing People (PMP) 11 years ago - hard to believe it's that long but the anniversary was last week and Mr PMP reminded me and I had a nice card from the lovely people at  Funding Circle.  Completely irrelevant to me but hey, at least they remembered. (Ha).

Anyway, I'm also observing the news on a daily basis and one of the ramifications of the COVID-19 virus seems to be that an increasing number of businesses are recommending that people work from home wherever possible. 

Now I'm certain that for a lot of people, this will be like Christmas coming early.  Big whoop, no need to get on the train, working in your pyjamas, no-one peering over your shoulder to see what you're bidding for on E-bay etc.   And I think for a short period, working from home is absolutely brilliant so if your employer is one of the few who is happy to allow you to work remotely for the foreseeable, then go for it.

However, longer term I'd suggest caution.  I think the ideal is probably 2 days a week working from home.  There are clearly many advantages of not heading to an office on a daily basis, not least, the reduced chances of picking up germs.

I'd say my own productivity in the last 11 years has been far higher than when I've been in an office. Possibly because I've chosen not to expand and therefore don't have to manage people and have meetings all day long. But equally, it's because I do 'power-working' - I have very intense phases of work, usually between 6am and 10am where I get a huge amount done.  Then I can take a bit of time off to walk the imaginary dog (Thomas), do exercise, read a book, have a bath.   As a recruiter, there are lots of calls over lunchtime and then I do another intense session in the afternoon, usually 2pm to 6.30pm before switching off.  It works for me. I'm very disciplined. I take what I do pretty seriously and the bottom line is that if I'm not working, I'm not making any money.  My chimp makes sure I put the hours in.

An ex-colleague, let's call her Sarah.  She couldn't make it work for her.   The pull of household chores, the procrastination, the lure of Twitter.  After a year, she went back into full time employment in an office.  So if you're thinking about working remotely as a 'thing', you need to be sure you have the right character for it.

Of course, there is a difference between working remotely as an 'employee' of a business and being self-employed but the principles of being disciplined still apply and in fact, video conferences become a daily part of life so you can't really get away with the pyjamas.

I do know a large number of big corporates who are making remote working work for their (marketing) employees.  They are trusting and seeing for themselves that a happy worker is a productive worker.  If productivity falls or if you're not meeting your targets you'll be pulled up on it but I've not seen many cases of that. It seems that the trust that an employer gives an employee is returned with an increased level of effective and efficient work production. In agencies, remote working is seen on a much lesser scale, due in part to the need for a creative buzz and culture required for successful advertising and creative ideas to come to fruition.  Also the constant client servicing requirements make it pretty difficult for someone to be working remotely all of the time.     But a day a week or fortnight seems to be reasonably accessible and is becoming increasingly so.

Working remotely all the time can make you go mad.  So you do need to leave the house at least once a day.  Don't end up working too hard.  Don't just talk to yourself (or the imaginary dog), remember to get dressed.   Office banter, teamwork and socialising is under-rated so the remote worker needs to make up for this in other ways.  As ever, balance in all things so be careful what you wish for.  A couple of days working from home is ideal, any more than that and you need to ensure you have strong boundaries and rules in place to ensure that your mental health doesn't suffer and you become a workaholic.    I make sure I have a couple of days a week in Manchester or Leeds and it's nice to see that so many agencies actually have real dogs.  Maybe one day I'll bite that particular bullet.

14 Feb 2020

Love is in the air...

So far, so predictable. It is, after all, Valentines Day.  I don't think I have anything new to say, particularly, however, I was musing about Love and finding your perfect partner in life...and it occurred to me that we do spend a long time working, so it's just as important to find your perfect job as it is your other half.   I have heard the same to be said about mattresses - and actually, that is true.  We do spend a lot of time sleeping so it is worth investing in a mattress that suits you.

Anyway, I digress. It's a challenge every month to find a new angle of recruitment to talk about and this month was no exception. Even with the 'Valentines' theme.  I did a bit of Googling but was disturbed at the high percentage of stats for people who 'hate' their jobs and thought that might be more representative of other sectors than that of marketing and advertising which is, by and large, a fairly enjoyable sector to work in.  Relatively. So I changed tack.

I'm going to segue from Love to Chemistry.  Because, after all, this is a recruitment blog.  As I work specifically in marketing and advertising, I solely register candidates who are seeking a role in that area, predominantly in an agency rather than in-house.  Every CV that I register has a strong track record, a demonstrable history of being able to do the job, usually, decent qualifications to back it up.   I've been doing this job for a long time and I've learned a lot in that time.  Mostly that the person who looks the best on paper, is seldom the one who gets the job.  Occasionally it is, but sometimes it's the 'wild-card', the one I added at the last minute, a bit doubtful but harassed at the thought that another recruiter might add it to the mix!

As a candidate, interviewing is very frustrating.  It's necessary but it does work both ways.  Often, the client or business that the candidate thought was amazing turns out to be not quite so much.  And often the one that a candidate might have discounted, turns out to be THE ONE. 

To get to the point.  Ultimately, it's about chemistry and fit.  Do you bond together, do you gel, is there a feeling of instinct that you will work well together?  I generally assume (but I do check) that the skills and experience is there as described in the CV but the unpredictable bit is the chemistry match.   This applies as much as for your partner as it does your employer.  Life is short, we get one shot, so it's important to make the most of it and enjoy it and live to the full.  As I've said before, we all have different life equations but the one constant is that we do want to love our jobs.

Six times out of ten, when I am saying to a candidate that they didn't get the job, it's because the 'fit' wasn't right*.  Perfectly skilled, but not right for us or for our clients.  Ten times out of ten when I tell a candidate that they did get the job, it's because the skills were right, and the fit was right too.    Ultimately there isn't much you as a candidate can do to influence 'fit' - it's often indefinable (which is where the chemistry analogy falls apart).  It's usually instinctive on both parts and there is a sense of joy that the two halves have met.

A word of warning though.  Occasionally at first interview, the employer and the employee can get a bit over-eager that they love each other.   Never under-estimate the power of a second interview where an employer will put your skills to the test.  If the skills and the presentation don't match up, it'll be a no.  You do need to support the 'fit' with the skills and ability to do the job.

On a final note, I guess it's just to say to trust your instinct. As much as you may well be able to tell when it's the perfect fit, it's important that you know when it's not... Be honest with yourself, it's very difficult to sustain a job you really don't like for very long.  Same with your love life...

Happy Valentine's Day!

* Other reasons that people don't get jobs include that they.....cocked up a presentation (typos, death by ppt etc), didn't turn up, were late, didn't show any rapport or strong communication ability or just weren't quite as good as someone else.

14 Jan 2020

CV howlers can cost you a job...

Happy New Year!  I think we're all over it now and we have hit the ground running.  Most people took advantage of the days that the holiday fell over and had a full two week break.  I certainly didn't do anything work related but as usual in January, I came back to a very full inbox with lots of new CVs - new year, new career and all that.   Which is great!  If you go back over my blogs for the last, um, 10 years (one a month, religiously), you'll find various pieces of advice on putting CVs together, what's acceptable, what's not and an often humorous review of what others might have considered to be worthy of inclusion on their CV. 

Last week, there was a piece in the Metro Newspaper - 'Selfies and lies...how CV howlers can cost you a job'.  Copyright rules prevent me from just directly lifting the article but I found myself just nodding at everything that was cited.  In summary:

Fact 1:  Bosses take just 34 seconds looking at your CV to decide if you are fit for the job.

Probably true.  They'll scan through it.  CVs need to be succinct, to the point and immediately 'tick the boxes' for the boss. Review your CV relative to each role that you are going for. Tailor it if necessary. Highlight the specific skills that make you 'right' for this particular role.  If you're going through a recruiter, ask their advice for any amends and ensure that they are going to 'pitch' you the right way.

Fact 2:  That 34 seconds is reduced if the CV includes a selfie. 
Definitely true.  Don't.  Preferably no photos.

Fact 3: Keep the CV to 2 A4 pages.  No rambling.
Generally true.  The best CVs are 2 sides of A4.  I don't think it's career suicide to go over but extensive CVs are mostly just too wordy and include the fact that you did grade 2 piano when you were 10.  You need to be able to edit and to show employers what your real skills are.

Fact 4:  Over 1000 recruiters found that employees get the name of the company they are applying to wrong.
Frequently true.  This is a direct result of online applications.  The speed at which people are applying for jobs is much quicker than in the old days where you had to print a CV, type a specific covering letter and then post it!  Copy and Paste is a devil...  The worst offender is the 'Dear.....'.   within a cover letter.  I see Dear Recruiter, Dear Hiring Manager, Dear John.   All my roles are clearly advertised saying please apply to Fiona Christian so it's not tricky to get right.  I'll still check a CV but there are plenty of HR Managers for whom that would be game over in their selection procedure.

Fact 5:  Telling porkies is the biggest CV crime.  A third of recruiters say that a lie scuppers your chances of getting the job.
True - ish.   I think that elaboration and exaggeration of facts is more common than outright lying.  From the very simple fudging of an age, a degree classification (lots of 2:2s magically become 2:1s) through to dates of employment.  Whoever said honesty is the best policy was right. Stick to the facts.

Fact 6:  Cliches and inexplicable gaps in career history will land your CV in the bin.
True - ish.  Depends who is reading the CV.  I'm quite intolerant of cliches but realistically I can't bin the CVs as I'd have to bin 98% of them.  Nearly every CV begins with a bit of blah.  Try to make your personal profile a decent one and actually non cliche driven.  Gaps in your CV will not land it in the bin, however, inexplicable ones will be asked about. A one line explanation should suffice.

Fact 7:  Spelling & Punctuation errors are a major faux pas.
True.  Check, check and check again.

Fact 8: Inappropriate stuff.   Email addresses, social media handles, hobbies.  If you want the job, keep them clean.
True.  I once had 'hotsexyrabbit:xxxxx.co.uk as a candidate email address.  Seriously.   If you are going to link your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds to the CV then be prepared for potential employers to look at them.  If they're not 'on brand' and include anything inflammatory, less than professional, you're going to be judged.  And if you're judged negatively, you're not going to get the job. I've written before about 'hobbies' on CVs.  Keep it to one line, we don't need to know your cat's name. Dry humour is fine in context but I've seen some howlers.

The recruiter who commissioned the research for this article was Adecco Retail which is essentially a high street recruiter but the facts stay true whatever role you are applying for.  The CV is your door opener and you need to make sure that it really sells you to an employer.  Get the basics right - typos will often kill a CV's chances of an interview because an employer will assume poor attention to detail and an acceptance of low standards in your life.  Avoid this with spellchecker!  

The final advice given in the article is to make sure you have your contact details on the CV.  Seems obvious!  As a recruiter I always remove personal details but they do need to be there in the first instance.  Nothing here is going to astound or astonish you but even the most senior candidates cock up their CVs.  Treat it with the respect it deserves!

4 Dec 2019

Advertised Salaries...

Most of my candidates know me.  We have a good relationship. You build trust over time but people buy into people and if (as a recruiter) you are genuine, have good opportunities, are honest and communicate really well, you'll do alright, better than alright.  I pride myself on getting back to people and try to go the extra yard - and with the honesty, I'll always be realistic without being patronising or negative. 

And yet. I don't think anyone ever sets out to be a Recruitment Consultant. I didn't.  But I evolved from marketing into recruitment and whilst I'd have no interest in being a recruiter of, for example, van drivers, I love what I do and I genuinely get a kick from getting people great jobs and helping them on their quest for the perfect career. (Another blog there - does the perfect career exist?...).

Many recruiters are doing the job as a transient role.  You'll see this with many of the big recruitment names.  They'll train up hopeful juniors...who then after 6 months decide that they'd rather not be doing that after all.  Something to do with the targets and pressures associated with traditional recruitment. So whilst, once again, I've veered off the point before I've got there. There is an important point to be made which is to find recruiters who you buy into and who listen and who get back to you.  Work with them closely but treat the rest like necessary evils...after all, you never know, they might just have the right role so don't shoot yourself in the foot by limiting yourself. I don't think ANY other recruiter would say this!  But skill will out.

So. Back to the point.

I've had some grief recently from candidates who have bemoaned the fact that many roles advertised online are advertised without a salary.  So I thought I'd debunk a few myths and truths about recruitment advertising.

Mostly...When a client calls me with a brief, they'll give me an overview of a role and what they're looking for. Typically, because I know the client, I'll know what they're looking for. I'll know the culture, the environment, the hours, the work life balance and pretty much  who would suit them.   If it's a new client, I'll find all that out.   I don't always get a job description. In fact, it's rare.  Particularly on the agency side.... In-house marketing is different, they have HR teams to write specs and resource to do that.  So the typical conversation will be me asking for salary boundaries.  Sometimes, a client will say, we have a max salary of X.  In which case, I will advertise the salary as X.   But after several years in the industry, I know that there is sometimes wiggle room.  So if I'm talking to candidates who are looking for more, I'll manage expectations on both sides and see if there is mileage there.    Genuinely, if I think that a client will pay more.....or that they'll go the extra mile themselves to get absolutely the right person, I'll do my best to get a candidate in front of a client.   Believe me, if a recruiter thinks they can make money, they will do their best. Without sounding like a shark, we'll be trying to fill what we can!   Generally speaking if  a recruiter says that they can't secure you the salary you are looking for....they can't.  They'll make more money themselves if you secure a higher salary so they won't be pitching you out there at a lower than expected salary.

So as with traditional advertising, recruitment advertising is all about attracting interest and converting that interest into desire and action.   Firstly, if I advertise a role on any online platform, it's a genuine role.  It's not worth my time to advertise fake roles.   Secondly, if I advertise a role, I'm keeping things quite broad.   I'm from a direct marketing background and I've learned that if you segment things too tightly, you lose all interest because you just whittle things down too far.  People can do anything and I prefer to think broadly - then whittle it down.  I know clients and I know candidates - the job is essentially to match like minded people together. 

One of the reasons I got into recruitment was to try and be different from the rest.  I think honesty is a HUGE part of this.  So many times in the past I felt I was fobbed off or lied to (as a candidate).  Individuals respond much better to honesty.  But equally, clients and employers are not always transparent in the recruitment process and that can make things very difficult.  Trying to explain why a situation has changed or goalposts have been moved.  I do try to remind people to remember what it is like with shifting sands in their current workplace - it happens everywhere.  I do have to trust that if a client gives me a brief, they are genuine and I'll do my best to fill that role.

Eventually, I come to the point.   I'll advertise a role with a salary that the client has indicated that they will pay.   Having been in the industry long enough, I'll know if there is any movement on that.  I'll know if they'll budge at all, a lot or a little.  Again, trust me, I'm a recruiter.   If I can place a candidate, I will.    Has a client ever not disclosed what they'll pay someone? Nope, never.   So as with the case if a recruiter asks to send you to a client who they haven't disclosed the name of, equally here, tell them to cop on if they aren't giving you more details on the money.  If you think a recruiter is being a bit 'fudgy' then get them to divulge where the boundaries are.  There are always boundaries.

From my experience as a candidate, I know that there is nothing worse than being sat at home, out of work, waiting for the phone to ring.  Wondering why a recruiter isn't calling in response to your email or application.   Now, as a recruiter, I know that clients don't always call regularly, don't always give feedback and that recruitment can come on and off the boil.  As a recruiter, I'm the go-between and that means sometimes that no news just means, no news.

Digressed again.   In-house roles do tend to be different.  They have defined bandings. They won't budge on the salaries. Rarely wiggle room but sometimes they can do stuff on bonus and benefits.  Recruiters should advertise the actual salaries because seldom is there any movement.  It's where you see salaries of  £22,368 - £25,469.  No logic there but each to their own in their bandings.  Independent companies tend to be different.  What are you worth to us?  That's their question.   The salary will be in line with that.

Best advice I can give?  Meet your recruiter.  Get them to buy into you. They'll then pitch you to all appropriate clients.  But it may take time and the more senior and the more expensive you are, the longer it will take.  That's why I always recommend that you sit tight in your current role before you resign.  It's much easier to be looking for a new role whilst gainfully employed than when you are out of work and likely to be much more 'needy' to future employers.  Reading that, it looks awful, apologies, but the psychology of recruitment is extensive - and that's probably another 200 blogs!