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!

18 Nov 2019

Chinese Whispers...

I think that as a recruiter, you need to be lots of things.  Whilst what we do isn't rocket science, there are certain skills that will differentiate the good from the bad and the great from the good.  For me, one of the key skills here is the ability to be objective.   So much of recruitment is subjective....that the ability to step back and look at things with clarity and without influence of outside influences can be very helpful in aiding decision making. 

I work with many advertising, digital and marketing agencies across the North.  Over the years, I've seen many changes in different agencies. Changes in ownership, structure, clients and often in the services that they provide too - agencies evolve over time.  People change too and this can often alter the fabric of an agency and it's a key factor in the 'reputation' of an agency or business.    Candidates, when they are seeking a new opportunity will have a number of criteria that they are looking for a new role to meet.   In our industry, this is often about creative output, the mix of clients, the hours of work, career progression,  the salary and of course people and management.   Candidates will usually do some form of 'due diligence' prior to allowing a recruiter to send their CV to a prospective employer.  Due diligence might be checking out the website or it might be asking your friends and colleagues who also work in the industry.     Increasingly it might also include looking for reviews on Glass door.   So reputation is important.   Even for a truly great agency, if a candidate has heard anything negative at all, they are quite likely to sit tight. 

In our current Economic and Political climate I'm finding that candidates are quite cautious in making a move.  That is, they are only moving role if they are absolutely sure it's the right opportunity.   I've had several situations recently where candidates have commented that they'd spoken to people and that had led to them withdrawing from opportunities where previously they were perfectly content.  I certainly don't object if someone withdraws from a recruitment process generally - they do so for all sorts of reasons!  However, if it is because they've heard something on the industry grapevine, then I'll ask them to take a step back and review that 'feedback' objectively.   

Over the years, most agencies that I've worked with have had 'reputations' and what I've learned is that reputations last for a long time and as is often the case, the more conversations about a subject, the likelihood is that the facts can be distorted -  particularly if it's recounted as a friend of a friend worked for agency x or similar.  I should add that reputations can be positive too!  But recently I've had to caution a few candidates where I've thought that they've had feedback that hasn't really been objective.   Often, an individual will not enjoy a workplace due to a personality difference or it just might not be the right 'fit' for them. But that doesn't necessarily mean it won't be a fit for someone else.  I'm often reminded of this because I am speaking to a lot of individuals who work for agencies across the North and I hear different things from different people.   

It's hugely important here to have an objective recruiter who can honestly tell you how it is.  For every agency that a candidate has told me something negative about, there are an equal and opposite number of people who'll tell me something positive.  Some people stay at agencies for years whereas others may not be able to hold out for 6 months.   I suppose what I'm trying to say is Horses for Courses...  By all means chat to friends and colleagues but do keep an open mind, stay pragmatic and actually, go along and have a chat with the agency so that you can find out if it might be right for you.  Most agency bosses are happy to answer direct questions about the work environment. They don't want to spend money on hiring someone who only lasts a short time....that first chat is the opportunity for both parties to explore if they might be right for each other.  Don't discount an opportunity purely on hearsay and by all means, call me anytime for an objective lowdown on any agency across the North!

25 Oct 2019

Money, Money, Money

It's very difficult really to ascertain what any job is worth in terms of salary.   I always think that we're relatively lucky in the world of advertising and marketing that we make a reasonable amount of money, that there is career progression and that we mostly enjoy what we do too.  Every year, I do a salary survey for my clients so that they have something to benchmark where salaries are in the Northern region of the UK relative to different job roles.  Of course, there are always salary bandings because there are variables but they are useful as I use the information from the candidates who I work with and the roles that I place, so the data is pretty reliable and accurate.

It is a universal truth, however, that everyone thinks they are underpaid.  Nearly everyone I talk to who is looking for a new role is doing so predominantly to make more money.   Over the past 2 years I've seen a marked decrease in the length of time that individuals spend in a role - particularly in the areas of search marketing, social media and junior client services.  I think this is partly generational - young people are ambitious and constantly pushing the boundaries to make more money.  Equally, particularly in search and social, the ability of someone to do the job is very visible and results driven which demonstrates to these employees just how useful they are and they are confident that they can pitch themselves to new employers with higher salary expectations - after all, they will prove return on investment very quickly.   Equally their market is buoyant and employers are keen to hire people with these skills.  In more creative agencies where the client services teams still have to serve their time as an Account Exec, then Manager, then Senior Manager before arriving at the giddy height of Account Director, their progression remains much steadier without sudden leaps of promotion.  Talking to clients, this is often because for these individuals to be taken seriously by clients, they have to have served their time moving up the ladder, to earn the credibility.  It seems that perhaps for search marketing and social media roles, the talent is there early on and the younger generations prove their credibility by creating results and fast. 

The average UK salary currently stands at £29k.  Which is higher than I'd thought it would be.  So I'd say generally that marketing and advertising hold up pretty well with salaries that become higher than this average after perhaps 4-5 years in the industry.  Starting salaries in our industry are not high - compared for example to a Doctor or Dentist but then they've spent many more years training!

Regional salaries in marketing and advertising do not change significantly over time.  I'd say that in the recent economic climate, we have seen that there are less 'senior' roles than perhaps we would expect to see.   Employers are keeping an eye on their bottom line and often promoting internally rather than hiring senior people externally.    The market for £25k-35k roles is usually pretty busy and it's only over the £40-50k mark that we see individuals needing to continue their job search for a little longer before they find their perfect role.    It is rare in regional marketing and advertising to see salaries for over £100k and indeed over the £70k role.    Senior marketers are earning well but they're not earning mega bucks.  Agency marketers always think the grass is greener in-house and expect that their Marketing Director clients will be on silly money.  Whilst they're usually on a little more money, it's not always a lot more.

Whenever I meet a candidate, money is usually one of the first things we talk about and I always ask candidates if they have requested a pay rise where they are currently.   Interestingly I would say only around 30% would say yes to this.  Women, particularly do not want to be considered awkward or difficult for asking for more cash.  Men will statistically ask their bosses for a pay rise at least twice a year - interesting!   Additionally, I find that those individuals who resign and then are 'bought back' by their existing employer, will stay in the role for an average of another 4 months before being back on the market.  Often this is due to unfulfilled promises or more commonly the realisation that perhaps....money isn't everything.  Job satisfaction, work life balance, flexible hours, gym membership, decent pension contributions, bring your dog to work, gin and tonic on a Friday....there are plenty of other criteria which do also get a look-in. 

On a final note.  A (good) recruiter will always give you an honest and objective view about your current salary and your expectations. They will also try to secure you as high a salary as is possible.  Within the realms of what is realistic, reasonable and essentially whatever the new employer thinks you are worth - to them.  It's not an exact science!