17 Dec 2012

The Linked In Conundrum

I did some analytics earlier this month to ensure that I'm spending my online advertising budget in the right place.  In recruitment, it's essential to advertise jobs on the right jobsites and it has been interesting over the past 5 years to see the increased role that social media sites are playing in candidate acquisition.  Incidentally, I don't spend anything on offline advertising at all!

So my analysis showed that along with the usual marketing specific jobsites, I'm starting to log Linked In increasingly as a source for placed candidates.  I started using Linked in almost as soon as it was launched so I've got a lot of contacts.  The placements I've made have effectively been freebies - up until now they're actually candidates who have found me.  Historically I've not 'head hunted' as the agency marketplace is a small one and I'd be shooting myself in the foot if clients found out I'd been poaching their teams.

However, last week, I met a Digital Account Manager who works for a leading agency.  Each week, this candidate receives at least 10 approaches via Linked In.  Fortunately (for me), the candidate felt that the approaches were random, badly worded (one actually did just say 'call me if you want a job') and that it was lazy recruitment. Conversely, she'd got my details from a friend in the industry and had then checked me out on Linked in, read my recommendations and then emailed me and asked me for a meeting.  The 'cold' targeting by recruiters on Linked in could soon start to irk candidates, particularly if they're not actually in the market for a new job.

As ever, there are good and bad recruiters.  There are the cowboys and the relationship builders.  Ultimately the cowboys go at it with a high volume approach and hope that if they make enough contacts, they will find some candidates.  Many of these recruiters operate on a basis of finding a candidate and then marketing that candidate (usually by sending them to each and every agency in the North) and then hoping that one will stick.  As a Relationship builder, I'd like to think I find a balance.  I've got great contacts throughout the industry so when a great client comes to me with a brief, I can find them a great candidate and equally when a great candidate comes along, I'll know exactly which companies will match their personalities, their skills and their ambition.

Obviously I'd prefer candidates always to find their way to my door through positive recommendations - I'm actually too busy managing briefs to spend hours trawling Linked In for candidates.  However, recently, the demand for Digital media candidates, particularly with SEO & PPC skills has become so much greater than supply, I'm looking for new ways of acquisition and using my network on Linked In is proving to be a good method of doing that.  However, it has to be done in the right way and not just to become the 'cold calling' route of sloppy recruitment with candidates being hammered with in-mails on a daily basis.  I now believe that as long as contact is relevant, targeted and appropriate, it would be foolish not to incorporate social networking further into my daily routine - we'll see how it progresses!  I'd be interested to hear more candidate stories (both good & bad) as to how it's working for you too.

PS....If you know any PPC, SEO or online display account handlers actively hunting for a new job, please ask them to get in touch!

19 Oct 2012

Salary Expectations...

One of the primary reasons for looking for a new job is to gain a higher salary.  We're all human, the cost of living is rising rapidly, we live in an increasingly aspirational world where the latest advertising makes us well aware of all the gadgets/cars/clothes etc that we 'need' in order to make our lives happier/simpler/fulfilled.  Most of us want to earn more money full stop.

As a recruiter, I always say to my candidate (tongue in cheek) that I will do my utmost to secure them the highest salary - with the caveat, that it is realistic.  In the past couple of weeks, however, I've come across several candidates whose salary expectations are out of kilter with the market averages.

Often this can happen when a candidate is so important to a company that the employer cannot afford to lose them - recently an Account Manager in a Manchester agency was given a £10k pay rise in order to stay with the company.  This happened on the morning that the candidate handed their notice in and the client couldn't bear the pain (and cost!) involved in introducing a new account handler to the team and to their longest standing client who loved the Account Manager.  They'd been losing a lot of staff and morale was low - they didn't want it to plunge to new depths with the loss of a much valued member of the team.  To them, it was a better solution to offer the earth to encourage the candidate to stay.  And they did.  However, that candidate will struggle to match that salary elsewhere in the coming months but ultimately they made a decision to make hay whilst the sun shines, pay off a bit of their mortgage and to see how long they can put up with all the issues that had meant the candidate was looking for a new job in the first place.

Increasingly, candidates do lie about their current salary.  One of the most common questions I'm asked is 'what should I be paid?' and I am frequently asked for copies of the PMP Salary Survey - interestingly by clients as much as candidates.  In the last fortnight I've had an 'Account Manager' with 2 years agency experience post graduation seeking £35k and a Social Media 'Manager' with just 12 months experience seeking £33k.  As I've said before, it's not my place to stand in the way of higher salaries but equally my role is to manage expectations of both clients and candidates.  Trying to pitch a candidate with 1 years' industry experience (in any of the marketing disciplines) at £33k is simply untenable.  I try two different tacks in these situations.  One, to try and establish if the candidate is telling the truth (and this is generally pretty easy since I know most of the agencies across our region and which are the agencies who pay well versus not so well).  If I suspect that the candidate is not being fully honest and perhaps they're just trying to inflate their position/keep up with their pals etc then I will gently try to lower those expectations to a level where clients will consider bringing them in for an interview.   In the marketing sector, we are not in one of the highest earning sectors of this country.  When I read about graduate starting salaries in the press, it's always the Accountants, Lawyers, Medics and Management Consultants who can command a £30k starting salary but in our sector, on average, £30k represents a minimum of 5 years experience post graduation and a starting salary is typically £16-18k.

Ultimately though, a candidate is worth whatever a client thinks they are worth - to them as a business.  In the current economic climate clients are more often than not trying to keep salaries low and to manage their overheads prudently so by having over-inflated salary expectations, you can price yourself out of the market. Particularly when there are so many candidates looking for work - it's largely a buyer's market and clients do have choice.

To the candidates who won't listen to the voice of reason, I always gently remind them that one of the first things an employer will do is to check their past salary on the P45 so it's wise to remember that when you're busy factoring up your salary requirement and negotiating a new package.  Equally, when references are taken, a future employer is perfectly entitled to ask about your salary.  No-one likes to feel that they've been taken for a ride and as all roles these days have a probation period, you'll soon find out if you're out of your depth.  Don't forget, a higher salary expectation from a candidate is matched by an equal expectation of results and return on investment by the employer!

10 Sep 2012

Personal Statements...

Read an article yesterday in one of the Sunday papers that got me thinking about Personal Statements on CVs.  The piece was written with a view to statements written by A level students on their University application forms but many parallels can be drawn to CVs for candidates at any stage of their career.

These days, 99% of CVs that I come across have a 'Profile' or 'Personal Statement'.  At best, this is a couple of lines but I've seen some extend to half a page. A quick Google search has highlighted that there are companies offering help and advice to candidates to help them put together their CVs and significant thought is put into making sure their personal statement is as strong as it can be - at a cost of £300-£500. What Cowboys!

Here's the thing.  I don't think any client actually reads the statement.  In fact, some clients collect them in the same way that academics collect exam howlers.  As the article suggested - as evidence of narcissic personality disorder or naive personal illusions.  Often, the statement is not actually a statement, just words - typically which will include Passionate (why is this relevant?), Motivated, Ambitious, Dynamic, Proven track record, Communication Skills....blah blah blah!

As I've said previously.  When a client reads a CV, they perhaps will give it less than a minute to scan.....they'll want to look at where you work, for how long, what the role is and where you worked previously.  Most clients have a very clear idea of who they are looking for and given that they give the CV so little time, it's important to keep it well structured so to give them the information they are looking for. They'll also check your sex and age - don't bother leaving your date of birth out, they'll just count backwards from your first role.  That's sufficient for them to pop your CV in the Yes or No pile.  Perhaps if it's a tricky role they might give it a bit more of a thorough read but don't count on it.  This is why I generally recommend  getting all the essentials on the first page of the CV and keeping it to succinct bullet points.  Make it as easy as possible for the client to see what they're looking for.

The Personal Statement can be seen as evidence of 'impression management skills' but that's the purpose of an interview where you can demonstrate your social skills, maturity, vocabulary and resilience.

The Personal Statement is probably here to stay so rather than take it off the CV, just give it a read and see if it makes sense or if yours is just random words that you think clients want to see.  In honesty they won't read it so don't spend the next two weeks trying to craft the perfect statement but if you do have one, please make sure that it makes sense and is relevant to you!

22 Aug 2012

Right vs Wrong...

I don't generally have much time to scour the Web for useful tips & stories about recruitment (too busy finding those perfect marketing folk their perfect jobs!) but I noticed the following link on a friend's Twitter feed and thought it was worthy of mention...  

The most important tip is to always leave a company on good terms - not always something you can control but the author is right - it's a small world out there and people do talk!  Worth noting.

23 Jun 2012

Part time opps

Bit of a topical one this.  I've had several calls this week asking me about part time opportunities in the North.   Mostly, these calls are from candidates who are on maternity leave, about to return to a role and they're keen to explore other opportunities....on a part time basis.

In the last year.  I've had one part time role.  A client considering a job-share.  After receiving 75 applications (yes, really - for a 3 day week), they decided it wasn't feasible for client continuity and care.  So it was put on hold.

When I talk to candidates who are working part time, it is generally a 4 day week which their employer agreed to upon returning from maternity leave.  When they do decide to look for a new role, I'm afraid that my advice is that if the part time requirement is non negotiable, they're probably going to have to stay put.  If they can then go to a 5 day week, of course there will be plenty of opportunities open to them.

On the clientside, historically, there has been more flexibility in part time roles but realistically, they too only generally become available upon request after maternity.  The exception to this is the public sector...it's your choice!

In an ideal world, yes, if the candidate was perfect, perhaps a client would be more flexible, however, the issue is that the market is still a buyers market and that there are many candidates on the lookout for a new role.  Agencies are nervous about a fall in client care if account handlers are not accessible and thus we just don't see those part time roles.

This isn't intended as a dig at agencies or trying to stand up for women's rights.  Just a realistic view of the lack of part time opportunities in our industry.  Sorry it's not a bit brighter!

10 May 2012

Sloppy CVs

We all have something where we have zero tolerance.  For me, it’s poor spelling   Poor punctuation gets me down too but it’s a while since I read Eats, Shoots and Leaves so I’m not going to go on about that.

It’s spelling, particularly with relation to CVs.  Ultimately, it’s unacceptable to have any spelling mistakes on a CV.  Ever. Interestingly it’s often the more senior candidates who will email over a CV riddled with typos.

Consider this from the employer’s perspective.  They’re assessing five different CVs.  Candidates all qualified for the role.  If there are typos in the mix, that’s instantly going to make them judge you, and not in a positive way either.

The biggest problem is when a candidate says they are going to ‘just quickly update’ their CV.  I’ll guarantee that I’ll get something sub standard.  I appreciate that we’re all busy BUT your CV is hugely important and any sloppiness will count against you.  It’s always the obvious typos too, I frequently get asked if I’ve got any rolls.  No kidding.  Other specials include a BDM who was consistently ‘tanked as top biller’, an AM who had a career break to ‘renovate her horse’, a Creative who was responsible for ‘ruining a number of client advertising campaigns’ and an AD who spelled Curriculum Vitae wrongly (In large bold capitals!).  Fortunately I do check CVs before I send them onto clients….

So anyway, this isn’t a big preachy missive.  Just a note to say check, check and check again.  Get a fresh pair of eyes to look things over.  If you’re using a covering letter, don’t forget to check that too.  Anything that we do at speed generally suffers in terms of quality so be aware of it.  Use spell checker too.  Most clients prefer not to see US spellings so try and stick to the UK standard.

If updating a CV quickly.  Do please check dates…..often I’ll receive CVs that say 1999-Present, 2005 – Present etc.  And the role responsibilities will all be in the present tense.   Even for the jobs they were doing 10 years ago!

In summary, if you’re updating your CV.  It’s worth doing it properly.  Please ensure that the dates, the tenses, the spelling and the punctuation are all spot on.  A sloppy CV implies that you’re generally careless with poor attention to detail. Not really the first impression that you want to make to a potential employer!

26 Apr 2012

Resigning with no job to go to...

I have a candidate who has handed their notice in with no job to go to.

It got me thinking…

Fundamentally, it’s not a good idea in the current climate to leave a role with no job to go to.  Yes, there are jobs out there, but the lead time to finding a job is significantly longer than in the past.  It’s a risky decision!  Obviously it depends on the individual and the circumstances but in general, I would advise against it. With a lot of choice, employers focus on CVs where candidates have stayed in their roles for over 18 months and where there has been seamless transition into the next role, thus progressing their career.  Interviewers will always ask about gaps on CVs and if you have left a role with no job to go to, that’s going to raise questions.   It may be perceived as a negative, the interviewer may think that you showed poor judgement for putting yourself in that situation so you need to be concise in your reasoning.  Keep it upbeat, keep it positive.  If you have left a role because of issues with your boss (as another candidate has recently), keep it objective and don’t provide detail.  Even if the boss was an absolute monster who made your life miserable, keep it to yourself as an interviewer, may perceive this to mean you are a bit wet/ a moaner/ a troublemaker/ thin skinned etc.

If at all possible, stick it out.  Sometimes, these things are taken out of your control and in those circumstances, then clearly, it’s not your choice to leave.  Equally, if a job is literally making you sick then it’s not worth it and something has to change.  However, most candidates who have handed in their notice with no job to go to, 3 months later after not working, do say that they wish they’d toughed it out for a little bit longer and that they hadn’t realised it was going to be quite so difficult to find a new role.  It’s not just that there are less roles, it’s much more competitive too – there are lots of good candidates out there.     Something that I observe reasonably often is that candidates who are not working, perform less well at interview.  This is tied up with confidence and self esteem and generally, the longer out of work, the harder they’re trying in interviews and if the interview doesn’t go your way, then the knock-back feels much greater. It’s a slippery slope.  Equally clients comment that a candidate was ‘a bit desperate’ and whilst sympathetic, they’re more likely to go for the confident and self deprecating candidate who has the luxury of being paid whilst searching for a new role.

Ultimately if you’re not happy in your employment, you need to work hard to find a new job.  It’s best if you can do this whilst being paid.  If you’re considering jacking it in do take a step back and visualise just how hard it will be not earning a salary and make sure you have calculated how long you can survive jobless for.  There are lots of folk out there in this position, not out of their own choice and who would struggle to understand this decision.  

10 Mar 2012

Candidates, don't go AWOL...

Honestly, this isn’t a rant. Really it’s not.  OK, it sort of is.

Here’s the thing.

We’re all human.  Recruiters understand that, clients understand that.  Life’s tough. It’s often hard to make time for interviews, particularly if you have a demanding job, have taken off lots of time recently, had too many ‘appointments’, have a suspicious boss etc.  Then, when you’ve got an offer, you can’t decide, haven’t had time to really think about it, may want to see how other interviews go,  another pitch has come up, what to do?

Your relationship with your Recruitment Consultant should be a strong one, you should trust them.  It is absolutely essential that you’re up front and honest with them.

I’ve got two recent case studies to share with you:

CASE STUDY ONE -  interview AWOL

It’s not quite the dog ate my homework but….

Arrange candidate interview with a leading agency
Candidate calls the day before to postpone
Recruiter explains so client absolutely fine, understands
Recruiter reschedules interview
Candidate calls the day before to postpone
Client fine, understands
Recruiter reschedules interview
Candidate doesn’t turn up for interview
Client not fine.  Is hacked off.  Has rescheduled three times, it’s rude. 
Week later, candidate decides they really do want the move but client is no longer willing to see them.

Agency life is particularly busy, hectic, chaotic.  Pitches are ongoing, there’s day to day client management to do, project implementation.  Trying to get out for an interview is hard work.  The ‘rant’ isn’t actually about scheduling and rescheduling interviews, it happens, we expect it.  However, not turning up and not notifying anyone is not OK, nor are made up excuses (I’d rather explain that you had a key pitch for a client – which shows your commitment rather than the car broke down for the 4th time…*).  In this day and age of technology, no-one will understand that you couldn’t nip out for 5 minutes ‘to the toilet’ and make a quick call.   Everything is fine if you communicate, the recruiter can smooth things over and explain etc.  But no contact at all?  Makes you look unprofessional in a way that any recruiter will find difficult to cover.  If you think it’s going to be difficult to get out of the office, advise in advance so if something does go pear shaped, it’s not a huge surprise.  We tend to recommend interviewing at the start or end of the day and most clients are happy to accommodate that.  If you’re really struggling, it’s best to tell us – we’ve even got clients who will interview at weekends (they’re the really understanding ones).  At no time is silence ever a good option.


Candidate interviews with client
Client and candidate love each other
After a second interview, they still love each other
Client makes offer
Candidate initially pleased
Candidate avoids calls from recruiter for the following 5 days
Client (and recruiter) increasingly concerned
Concern turns to irritation (I’m playing this down…)
On day 6, candidate rings recruiter.  Talks initially about the weather (really!)
Candidate turns the offer down

In this case they may see it as not a big loss but it is a small industry and word does get around.  It would have been a different story if they had decided to go for it as they were in danger of pushing the client to change their mind.

Ultimately, communication is absolutely key in this process. The recruiter has to keep talking with both the candidate and the client.  It’s their job.  The client needs to be kept in the loop as to how the candidate feels about the opportunity and the offer and the candidate in turn, needs to (honestly) tell the recruiter how keen they are on the role.  Recruiters expect good candidates to have multiple opportunities on the go simultaneously, we expect counter offers, we expect and appreciate that candidates need time to think and review an offer and to take time on what is a very important decision.  However, going off radar, not returning calls and sending one line texts is unhelpful.  Bear in mind that we have a client to keep happy and if you’re not that keen on the role, we need to manage the client’s expectations and most of all, keep that door open for you until you decide.

Many candidates do feel that recruiters are only concerned with the £££.  Clearly that’s a consideration but particularly in our sector, we’re fortunate that there are several professional recruiters who do put the needs of the candidate first, ensure that the opportunities that they present are relevant and manage the recruitment process well.  Most recruiters will give proper and balanced advice to candidates so don’t be scared of sharing your thoughts with them.  If you don’t want to accept an offer, that’s fine, we can live with that and so can the client.  However, it’s not fair to leave things in limbo.  If you need more time to make a decision, tell us, we can again manage the client expectations.  If the client gets a bit shirty that you’re taking too long, they’ll be a lot shirtier if you don’t return calls. The longer you leave it, the more the client thinks that they may have made a mistake in making an offer.  So really it’s best to just be honest with the recruiter and decide on a plan of what to communicate with the client.  Then we’re all happy.  You’ve got time to make the right decision and the recruiter can be left to manage the client.

So.  Rant over.  These two case studies are both good candidates (on paper) who ultimately haven’t got great communication skills.  I hope they’ll be very happy in their new roles.  Really!  I work with candidates over time. I’m not in it for the quick buck but for the long haul.  Having been in the industry for several years, I continue to maintain relationships with candidates over the years and work on a ‘if I don’t place you this time around, come back to me in a couple of years, let’s stay in touch’.  This industry is too small to fall out with people or have people thinking badly of you, communication is the key!

*  Note that you should never, ever use an excuse of death/funerals/hospital visits unless it’s true.  I have had candidates in the past with 7 grandparents, several dogs etc, just not good Karma.  Also, really, food poisoning isn’t that believable and if you are going down that route, don’t embellish with details of the (fake culprit) Indian/Chinese takeway – a dead giveaway!

5 Feb 2012

Photographs on CVs….

 This has the potential to be the shortest blog yet.  I’ve been mulling it over for years and I’ve yet to come across a situation where I think it adds any value to put your photograph on your CV.

It’s standard human behaviour for people to judge each other from what they look like and employers are no exception to this.  It doesn’t help that many people who add a picture to their CV, add one which they think they look particularly adventurous/glamorous/interesting which only adds to further judgement or rash and inappropriate interpretations of your character.

In reviewing a CV, clients typically want to know where you work, how long you have worked there, what your skills are, what accounts or clients you have worked on.  That’s what is important in terms of whether you can do the job and whether you deserve a first interview.  It’s more important to spend your time toning up the CV in terms of describing what you do and what you’re looking for,  rather than spending time on selecting the photo which you think best represents you and your character.

This topic can also extend to the use of ‘interesting’ templates, non standard fonts etc, In particular, for a creative, a prospective employer is interested in your creative portfolio, not how fancy schmancy you can make your CV.

Also I’ve seen some very special CVs in my time with adornments ranging from outlandish fonts to hidous clip art.  In summary, my advice is to keep it simple, the purpose of a CV is to inform the employer what your skills are and whether you are a suitable candidate for the role.  I understand the argument about making it stand out but adding any element of subjective judgement to this equation can go either way and in my experience, it’s best to let your skills and experience do the talking.


Don’t get me started on interests and hobbies…. It’s not really worthy of it’s own blog post but seriously think about the skills and interests which will help your application.  Grade 1 violin is an achievement at the age of 8 but a red herring when you hit 35.  This area is full of subjectivity and prejudice, my best advice is to keep it brief and neutral…