13 Dec 2013

Issues over Introduction

One of the many things I love about recruitment, is that it isn't rocket science.  It is, however, very much a service industry and one where relationships (with both candidates and clients) are hugely important.  I've been recruiting now for close to 10 years and PMP has been built on strong relationships.  I place Account Directors today who I first knew as Account Executives and I've stayed in touch with them through their careers.  Much as I like to think I've got the market covered, the industry has changed over the last 5 years and certainly there are not the same number of opportunities for candidates.  Clients also tend to use multiple recruiters and I will advise candidates to talk to a range of recruiters to ensure that they hear about every opportunity in the region.  These days, if a recruiter tells you not to go anywhere else in your search for a new role, I wouldn't pay any attention. You've got to look after number one in the search for a job and that means targeting multiple opportunities through multiple sources.  A recruiter who gives you the 'don't talk to anyone else, I'll have you placed in no time' line is lying.  That's very much old school recruitment, that of the hard sales and arm twisting variety.

I'd thought that old school recruitment was over.  These days, there are plenty of specialist boutique recruiters. Whilst many of them are still sales animals and people who have never set foot in a marketing agency, the majority of them do seem to have cottoned onto the service element of recruitment and understand that candidates will go elsewhere if they don't a) have their calls returned and b) present them with relevant opportunities on a regular basis. Being registered with multiple recruiters and having your CV 'out there' can present problems.  In the past month, I've had a couple of shoddy recruitment experiences and I wanted to share them just so candidates know really, how the process of introduction should work and, occasionally, how it does.

SHODDY CASE STUDY ONE:

  • Client Z briefs PMP on a new role
  • PMP searches in-house database, gets on the phone, advertises role online (all the usual acquisition tools)
  • PMP responds to candidates who have applied to role, vets & briefs suitable candidates.  GAINS PERMISSION to send CV (s) to client.
  • PMP forwards shortlisted CVs to Client Z.  
  • Client Z advises PMP of 3 candidates to interview, however, the fourth they have received from another recruiter
  • PMP queries which candidate, informs Client Z that there must be some confusion and goes off to chat to candidate.
  • Candidate has no idea who the other recruiter is. Has never heard of them, never had a conversation with them. Candidate swears that the only person to have discussed this role with is PMP.
  • PMP tells this to Client Z
  • The other recruiter then proceeds to lie to Client Z telling them that they've actually MET the candidate in question and the candidate must be lying...
  • Other recruiter leaves a series of strangulated messages on candidate's phone informing her that they absolutely have to speak.
  • Candidate speaks to other recruiter. Other recruiter tries to force candidate to be represented by them - otherwise you won't get an interview.
  • Candidate tells PMP and calls Client Z directly to tell them what has been going on. Client Z strikes Other Recruiter off the Preferred Supplier List. 
  • Candidate interviews for the role & secures offer two weeks later.
What went wrong?

Well, the candidate applied for the role via an online jobsite.  Applied once to an advert via PMP and one from the Other recruiter.  The difference is that the Other recruiter took the application and sent the CV direct to the client.  The candidate had not been vetted or briefed and was unaware that they had been sent.  This is very lazy recruitment.  Sending a candidate CV anywhere without the explicit permission of the candidate is an absolute no no in the world of (ethical) recruitment.

What can you do to prevent it?

The difficulty here is that there is probably little you can do.  Increasingly I see candidates on their covering notes do ask that their CV is not sent anywhere without their permission but in the world of Cowboy Recruitment, that isn't going to cut it.  You will only realise that your CV has been sent when Cowboy recruiter rings you up to tell you that you have an interview with a company you have never heard of.  At that point you do have an opportunity to question their code of practice but equally if it is a job you really like the sound of, you're not going to turn down that interview.  And so the Cowboy gets away with it and they carry on doing it, because it's time saving recruitment and it works (for them).
I tend to advise candidates that if you are applying online for a role. Try to call the recruiter in advance of sending the CV and have a chat with them about it.  A good recruiter will always take a call - it could be their next fee!

SHODDY CASE STUDY TWO:
  • CLIENT X briefs PMP on a new role
  • PMP searches in-house database, gets on the phone, advertises role online.
  • PMP responds to candidates who have applied to role, vets & briefs suitable candidates.  GAINS PERMISSION to send CV (s) to client.
  • PMP forwards shortlisted CVs to Client X
  • Client X phones PMP to request interviews with 2 candidates but says that he already has Candidate Y
  • PMP rings Candidate Y. Some initial confusion.
  • Candidate Y had phone call that day to say that she had just had a phone call from Other Recruiter (a different one!) to say she had an interview with Client X.  Even though she had not had an initial call to discuss the role with her and she was not aware her CV had gone across.  Other Recruiter's first line was that 'I've got you an interview with a fantastic client and they only want to meet you'.  Persuasive and designed to boost the ego.  Candidate Y didn't feel she was in a position to get angry that her CV had been sent to a client without her permission so meekly accepted the interview and then rang PMP sheepishly to apologise.
  • CLIENT X acknowledges the mix up but cites he must go with the recruiter who sent the CV first.
What went wrong?

In this case, the candidate was actually registered with the other recruiter who said after the event that the candidate had given her permission for them to send her CV anywhere....Seriously.  This should never happen.  The marketing world is a small one, simply no recruiter should ever be just sending your CV out anywhere, without you knowing about it.  The client took the route of least argument, saying that their policy was go with the CV that lands on the desk first....he understood what had happened and says he won't brief the other recruiter in future but clients just don't want the hassle of having recruiters wrangling over candidate ownership (and I don't blame them).

What can you do to prevent it?

Whenever you register with a recruiter, always stipulate that your CV must not go anywhere without your permission.  Keep a spreadsheet with your own record of who has sent your CV where, and when.  And don't be afraid to challenge bad recruitment practice.  Only if we let the Cowboys get away with bad practice will they continue to break the rules and stay in business.  There are plenty of good guys out there recruiting now, candidates have a choice!

Signs that your recruiter is a Cowboy:

When they call you/email you once in a blue moon (they don't even send out regular updates)
When they call you to tell you that they've got you an interview with a client (without any prior conversation)
When they won't tell you a clients' name.  'I've got a great role but it's top secret and I can't tell you who it's with'. Rubbish!  Tell them they're not sending the CV unless you know where it's going.
When they try to turn up the sales pitch, arm twisting, tell you to take a role and try it for a bit...
If they're sending your CV out without your permission
If they don't actually know anything about the client brief (a sure sign that they've heard on the grapevine and they've not actually got a relationship with the client).
When they tell you not to register anywhere else and they must have an exclusive arrangement with you
If they are pushy
If they ever ask you for money

Hope that all gives you some insight!  Competition in the recruitment market is good. It keeps us all on our toes and gives clients and candidates choice as to who they deal with.  Recruitment should be all about relationships though, and if you don't feel that you've got a good relationship with your recruiters, then look for someone else!



29 Nov 2013

The North South Divide...

It's quite common for many Northerners head off to The Big Smoke at some point in their career.  Usually it's post university and it feels like this is almost a rite of passage, an opportunity to live and work in London, to work hard and to play hard and then, typically, after five years, to return back to their hometown in order to buy a house, start a family, be close to relatives & get help with childcare etc etc.  Currently, there must be something in the air because there is a real influx of candidates trying to get out of London and back to the North.

I for one am certainly not complaining about this, I love candidates coming out of London, they add fresh blood to the regional pool of candidates, different client experiences, different agency experiences and as such, they're very placeable.  Which is all great.  However, one area which is proving to be a real sticking point is managing a relocating candidates salary expectations.  I've had five different conversations this week on this topic and every candidate has gone away to review their decision - hence the blog!

The fact is that salaries in London are high, a lot higher, in fact, than in the North (I'm writing this with particular reference to agency salaries rather than in-house but the same is undoubtedly true).  It is also true that salaries in the North generally hit a ceiling around the £50k mark - there are very few roles for £50k plus candidates.  So, the upshot is that most candidates who are relocating from London to the North, are going to have to take a salary cut.  And not many of them realise this.  Or at least the extent to which they will have to take a cut.

This week, a London Account Director who has been seeking to return to the North for 2 years declined an interview for a role in Manchester.  It's a great role, with a great agency, with great clients.  It comes with a salary maximum of £50k.  The client will not pay more, they don't need to - there are plenty of North West based Account Directors all looking for new opportunities and they'll consider that a good salary.  But, for a London based candidate on £75k, they just weren't able to consider that salary.  So Stalemate.

Similarly, a Senior Account Manager on £45k in London....in the North West, their CV equates to a £30k role that I'm working on currently. A London based Account Manager with 2 years experience looking for £30k....you get the idea.

For my clients, to an extent, they will pay a higher salary relative to specific skills, experiences and length of time in the industry.  So there are some exceptions, however, we're still seeing a lot of caution with clients, people are still being made redundant, and there is a candidate heavy market - salaries are not decreasing but they are certainly not increasing.

There is no real answer to this.  There is a very clear salary differential for the North vs South so relocators must simply weigh up the difference that the reduced cost of living will make, the chance to live near work, not to be commuting for hours on the Tube, the benefits of being near family and ultimately, how much they don't want to be in London.  In summary, as a recruiter, I'll try and place candidates on as high a salary as possible - it's not in my interest to persuade people to take a lower salary, however, I've got to be realistic about the market and the agencies we have in the North and the salaries they will pay. Relocating candidates need to lower their expectations, or stay put!

27 Sep 2013

Does wit woo?

I’ve had a bit of a week for ‘humorous’ CVs.    One candidate adorned the CV with pictures of himself with various zoo animals in reclining poses, another talked about space travel being a hobby and this morning I’ve had a Jedi Knight apply for a job.

So, does wit woo?  Erm, no. 

Your CV is not the place for jokes or trying to be funny.  You might think that you’re trying to get across your 'unique' personality and that it’ll show you to be light hearted or with a fun character but really, the chance of your CV landing on the desk of a hiring manager who fortuitously has the same sense of humour as you is really very small. Whereas the chance of it landing on the desk of a hiring manager who’ll think you’re a bit of a plonker, is just too great to risk it.

In honesty, the only person you’ll get a laugh out of is the recruitment consultant who’ll probably share it with their team and you’ll be remembered...for all the wrong reasons.  I know several recruiters who have a ‘wall of shame’ – imagine your CV up there.

You’d think it’d be junior and inexperienced candidates who try to be a bit ‘different’ but no, often seniors can be guilty too.  Creatives too often get it wrong by being too ‘creative’ with their CV.  Copywriters? don’t get me started!

It’s important never to forget that people judge you all the time, even subconsciously.  Don’t give them the opportunity with your CV....Keep it succinct, keep it skills based, keep it professional.   I’m increasingly seeing dodgy email addresses too.  What sort of impression does ‘dumbblonde@.’ Or ‘sexonlegs@..’ give?  Seriously, have some common sense!


You have the interview to wow the employer with your wit and charm. Don’t use the CV to prove your comic genius, unless you’re applying to be a Jester.

6 Sep 2013

Covering Letters...

I never used to think that covering letters were worth much.  I don't think I'm giving away too many recruitment industry insider secrets by saying that whenever an email arrives with a CV and a covering letter, the letter is rarely opened.  On the occasions that I have opened them, they are largely blurb and my eyes glaze over as I read the same old cliches.  In recruitment eyes, it's the CV that is the all important determinant for whether you've got the right skills and experience for the job - we look at education, the relevant work history, length of time in roles etc etc.  Generally speaking, I still think this is true. If you're applying for agency roles, it's your CV that you need to spend time perfecting, rather than a cover letter.  The exception may be when applying directly for opportunities, particularly clientside ones but generally I find that a couple of lines that just stipulate what you're looking for, reason for leaving and salary expectation work just fine.  I receive so many CVs each day that my action will be to open the CV, scan it for relevance to current opportunities (again, I don't just consider an individual for the role they applied for, I'll mentally cross reference the CV across all the opportunities we're handling), then I'll pick up the phone and fill in the gaps and any questions that come to mind.  Whenever I send a CV to a client, I accompany it with a mini profile that denotes key details (salary, reason for leaving & notice period) and also what particular skills in the CV make this candidate relevant to this particular role or opportunity.

However...

Recently I failed to notice that the applications from one of the online recruitment advertising sites that I use had dried up.  I noticed it this week and after not very long discovered that they were all going into my spam folder.  Yes, all 632 of them (over 3 weeks....you'd have thought I might have twigged, although in my defence it was holiday season).  So, I had quite a big job on my hands to run through all the applications. This isn't so much about covering letters, but the modern day equivalent which is the online advertising site application note.  On most of the online advertising sites, they allow candidates to have a profile and this denotes name, current role, where you live, salary expectation etc.  When the candidate applies for a specific role, this profile is given along with their few lines that go with (supposedly specific to) this application.  Normally I don't take too much notice but with a window of a day to go through all the applications, I needed to use a filter and so I used the profiles and started to read the application blurb rather than individually open all 632 CVs.  So...

Some words of advice when using online advertising recruitment sites:

1.  Make sure your profile is up to date & accurate
2. Make sure your profile has no typos
3. Make sure you address the application to the right person - I ditched everyone who had sent theirs to Kate, Jo, Peter, David etc
4.  Make the application specific to the actual role you are applying for - I read several times how someone was absolutely sure they were the perfect candidate for.....a totally different role
5. Make sure you check what City/Region you are applying for jobs in...
6.  Keep it brief. You don't need to write War and Peace.  General rule of recruitment thumb is the more someone writes on the application note, the less 'right' they are for the job.
7. Make sure your most up to date CV is on the site - I might delete it without actually knowing that in the last two years you have actually been doing a role that does make you relevant for the application...
8.  Keep a note of what you have applied for, when and from which jobsite.  I often ring candidates who have absolutely no idea what role they have applied for.  And...this is when their cover note is telling me why they are absolutely perfect for THIS very job....bizarre.
9.  Imagine a recruiter reading the note. Imagine someone trying to filter through 632 applications and  feel their frustration with all of the above. Imagine that if it's full of typos, inconsistencies and addressed to the wrong person -  your CV will be unceremoniously deleted. 

So in the modern world, I'd say that it is rarely worth writing a cover letter unless it is specifically asked for (this may vary in other sectors).  However, I'd also say that it is absolutely essential to keep your profile information on jobsites absolutely up to date and accurate and to make all applications specific.  I do know how hard it is out there and I do know that candidates can be sending out 30 applications a day from various jobsites.  Remember though - it's about quality not quantity.  Recruiters really do use these profiles to filter and you need to make sure you don't lose out through sloppy application technique.  Attention to detail, in all things, is key.



8 Jul 2013

Beautiful Marketing People?

There has been a bit of publicity recently with a new recruitment business launching with the premise of registering only beautiful people on their books.  It turns out that it's a spin off business from a dating site which also only works with beautiful people...  I've hummed and ha'ed about this for a while and whilst I'm pretty cynical about the whole thing, I think they'll find themselves a market. Albeit a shallow one but a market all the same.

In the years that I've worked. I've seen both sides of this.  A boss who was a sucker for a pretty face would recruit speedily and we'd see his new hires exit the business just as speedily.  This chap would actually skip the regular interview questions and spend the interview telling the candidates how successful he was and the size of engine of his new Ferrari (about the same size as his ego).  As a recruiter, I've also come across clients who do ask for 'attractive' candidates. There are a couple of agencies in the North West where the account handling staff resemble the set of Hollyoaks  - the MDs themselves being men of a certain age (and as John Inverdale might say, are no oil paintings themselves).  So whilst there are laws in place to ensure discrimination doesn't happen, I'd say there not always enforced.  However, most of the time I would suggest that there is somewhere for everyone. Skilled and talented individuals will always find work - good looking or not.  If some bosses categorise skilled individuals as not attractive enough, they're bound to find work elsewhere where the recruitment process is fair and appropriate.

The new recruitment business states that 'it pays to hire good looking people'.  Well clearly it depends on what the job is - you'll never see promo girls who have a hair out of place and the girls in the pit lane at Silverstone are always gorgeous.  But in a marketing agency, it's skills in actual account handling, knowledge of branding, creative ability etc.  The job market is such that anyone who isn't performing, just won't last.  Good looking or not!

My knowledge of individual agencies and in-house marketing departments is to know what overall profile of candidate suits each business.  Beauty is also in the eye of the beholder and who am I to decide who is beautiful enough!  So when I'm interviewing, I'll check personality and skills over looks and I'd like to think that 90% of clients do the same.  Clients, on the whole, care far more about grooming and presentation over whether a candidate is 'officially beautiful'. The 10% who are suckers for a pretty face should check out www.beautifulpeople.com!

PS:
Photos on CVs. Generally only seen from candidates who perceive themselves as beautiful people - 'once you've seen a photo of me you won't be able to resist an interview...'  If you absolutely must....(preferably not) please no photos of you on holiday/on a night out/with your cat etc.  This counts for your Linked in profile pic too.

28 May 2013

Does degree class matter?

There was a recent media flurry where the esteemed Medic & academic Robert Winston put his neck on the line saying that he actively did not recruit individuals who had a First Class degree.  His theory goes that he prefers more rounded individuals who have spent their undergraduate years becoming people, being involved in lots of different things – not just studying.  It got me thinking on a number of levels and specifically does degree classification and indeed do degrees matter in the marketing sector. 

As ever, there isn’t a clear answer to the question.  It’s subjective and dependent usually on either an organisational bias or personal feelings of the hiring manager.

I also believe in the marketing sector, that the degree classification is largely only relevant in your first or perhaps second career role.  After that, it’s experience that counts.  However, don’t underestimate the importance of getting the ‘right’ first role and for that reason, I do think it’s important to come out of university with at least a 2.1.  It gives you choices and options.

At my most fundamental level of thinking, I believe a First class degree is never going to do you any harm. Most employers are impressed by them.  Equally a 2.1 is always considered a good degree to have . Interestingly I see a lot of candidates with straight As at A level come out of university with a 2.1 rather than a First (do they slack off the academic stuff a bit once they are outside of parental control?!).  Clients who do look at degree classification, do tend to look down on a 2.2 or below and for a graduate entry role when employers are looking at CVs, they would naturally go for someone with a 2.1 over a 2.2 with all other factors being equal. In this way, it can give you an edge.  Certain sectors can be more selective than others. For example, Law or Accountancy firms will ALWAYS want a 2.1 and a CIM qualification.  Conversely, I’ve never come across a marketing agency who use the CIM qualification as a selection criteria.

Many moons ago when I was an undergraduate, things were different.  We did degrees without any real sense of what career path we were going to follow (obviously with the exception of Medics, Vets & other vocational courses). In the old days, the degree classification was all important as it demonstrated the ‘transferrable skills’ of a candidate.   As a Chemistry graduate I routinely trotted out lines at interview that doing a solid scientific discipline had given me great analytical skills,  and that whilst I didn’t see myself as a ‘bench chemist’, I’d learned a whole range of other skills that would make me a truly fantastic  Marketeer!  Incidentally, I had to work my absolute socks off for a 2.1, Dr Winston’s model falls down a bit there as with over 35 hours of lectures a week, I didn’t actually have much time for making me more ‘rounded’.  
Fortunately (for me), many moons ago, there weren’t the range of ‘modern’ degree courses in marketing, media studies, PR, Events Management and various other marketing disciplines.  So for my first industry role, I was a Marketing Assistant for a global chemical company.    I was also fortunate that my first employer put me through the CIM Diploma which enabled me for all future roles, to cite my ‘marketing qualification’ at the same level of a Masters.  

This strategy still works.  I have several clients who want candidates with the following:

1)      Good A level grades
2)      Attendance at a good/old school university
3)      Minimum 2.1 degree

I’ve never come across a client who only wanted people with First class degrees so perhaps Dr Winston has a point!  Generally clients want employees who are bright, engaging and most importantly who have a commercial mind/outlook.  This can make it tricky if you’ve done a degree in something like History or English Literature.  You won’t have done a work placement during university so you will have to work hard to prove that you a) really want a career in marketing and b) you can adapt to life in the commercial world.  In the old days, during our university vacations, it was enough to work in the local pub or hotel to enable us to say we were ‘hard workers’.  These days in marketing specifically, if you don’t have some relevant work placement experience, it is increasingly difficult to secure that first break.  If you don’t have a marketing or business degree and you don’t have any work experience in marketing, you’re going to find it tough (not impossible though) to break into the sector.

So in response to Dr Winston.   I would say that in the marketing sector, you should strive for as high a degree classification that you are capable of.  University choice is still important. If you go for a ‘new university’ do justify your choice with some demonstration of why that course was right for you.  For example Leeds Met is particularly good for it’s PR Degree course but many employers are a little sniffy about the old polytechnics.  What I believe is absolutely the most important factor is getting work experience.  You should start thinking about this as early as possible during your degree.  Send out letters directly to marketing departments, creative agencies, digital agencies – whatever you are interested in.  Ask for a placement.  Whilst most agencies do pay their interns, it’s worth working for monkey nuts as ultimately this experience will pay off.  Get in touch with your university careers service as soon as possible to find out if they have any links to local marketing agencies or blue chip companies. Go to any careers service talks or events which are being given by local businesses.  I think if you focus on just getting a First class degree first and a job second, you’ll find it tougher than someone who got a 2.1 but who put a bit of time into researching local businesses and getting some placement experience.

I’d like to finish this one by saying that I did have a candidate who had parents who were both Doctors.  She loved art and creative design but pleased her parents and did a deal with them that she would do a science degree (Pharmacology) and then review her career options.  During her degree, she did make sure she kept up her creative work and steadily built up a small but high quality portfolio.  She got a 2.1 in her degree but knew at the end of it, she didn’t want to work in the field.  She’d sent her mini portfolio to lots of Manchester agencies and because there was quality work there and she had a strong pitch, she got a couple of placements.  She is now working for a top London creative agency and is a very happy bunny indeed.  I think her parents are happy that she is happy!  I like this story because it proves where there is a will, there is a way.  If you want something enough, you can achieve anything.   There’s certainly not many Graphic Designers out there with science degrees!

My absolute final point is that I think things will change over the next few years with certain degrees becoming slightly less important.  There are a few agencies now who have training schemes aimed at A level finishers (admittedly mostly the big agencies like McCann Erickson). You’ll need a lot of ambition and chutzpah to get accepted onto one of these schemes but ultimately after 3 years with a great company, you’ll have been earning and learning relevant skills at the same time.   Of course, you’d need to be reasonably sure that you want to work in marketing and I’d also look into doing CIM or a part time distance learning degree simultaneously (many of the agencies do offer day release to do this) but it’s worth considering to get ahead. Particularly with degree courses in say Public Relations. It’s a very practical area of marketing and I’m not sure that ‘studying’ it for three years makes you a better PR Account handler than someone who has been ‘doing it’ for three years*.  The most important thing whether you go down the degree route or not, is getting relevant experience. I can’t stress that enough.

*Views entirely my own!


1 Apr 2013

New tricks...

A candidate recently came to me for some advice. I've seen a couple of similar scenarios in the last few months so I thought I would share the story and hopefully it might help others!

The candidate, a well established agency account handler  had,  following redundancy last year taken a role as a Senior Account Manager in a pure-play digital agency.  Previously, the candidate had managed a wide range of above the line campaigns for blue chip companies, managed a team, guided clients on their strategic marketing plans and taken responsibility for the day to day management of campaigns.  A confident and strong Account Director.  However, following redundancy, the number of senior account handling roles were minimal and when offered the SAM role by a former colleague, the candidate jumped at the chance.  The money was a lot less than they'd previously earned but the candidate (wisely, in my view) took the role based on potential and the opportunity to learn some new skills - namely managing digital campaigns which previously, the candidate had not worked on.

Six months in, the candidate was wobbling (technical recruitment term!).  Ultimately, feeling out of their depth and completely out of their comfort zone.  Having previously worked in a larger agency with lots of processes and procedures and layers of Campaign Management, the new agency was a small independent where all hands are on deck and everyone rolled their sleeves up.  For someone coming into this agency environment with no digital knowledge, it was too much.  The candidate felt constantly stressed through their lack of technical knowledge, which then meant that they were unable to give clients considered advice and they felt that within the rest of the small, close knit team, they were losing credibility, constantly having to check things with other people.  The candidate was ready to walk out of the door and not come back.

So we had a coffee and looked at options.  I pointed out all the (many) positives.  Namely that digital at the moment seems to account for 70 % of the marketing vacancies out there, the agency had been happy to take them on knowing that they had little to no digital knowledge, that the drop in salary and status (to SAM) accounted for that lack of digital knowledge, but also acknowledged the general account handling management skills that the candidate did have.  Not many agencies would take on that challenge, especially as digital roles are becoming more technical, however, the agency head had worked with this individual previously so knew exactly what skills were on the table.   The number of traditional integrated AD roles in the North West are still extremely low so given the option of sitting at home trawling the online job boards versus finding a way to deal with the current challenge, we decided to put together a three point plan to find our way out of the problem.

1.  Talk to the boss.  Don't just make it about how hard you are finding the role.  Outline the challenges but also outline the solutions.    Having invested 6 months in someone, the boss is not going to want to spend the time or money on finding a replacement.
2.  Find ways to build confidence. This candidate had been made redundant last year and was still bruised by the experience.  Trying to learn new skills whilst experiencing low confidence is tricky.
3. Logically accept that this is a really good opportunity and one that, if successful, will re-define a career for the future.  Not many individuals would have been given such a chance.

It's interesting, once you've verbalised an issue and shared it, there is always an improvement in how you feel.  In summary, once the candidate had spoken to the boss, he instantly registered her on the IDM Diploma in Digital marketing and organised a one to one session each week with her and the technical project manager to use as a formal training mechanism.  When it came down to it, it wasn't the client servicing that was an issue (after all, they'd over 10 years experience of managing clients) but confidence in knowing what they were talking about from a technical perspective.  The MD pointed out that he had plenty of technical skills in house, what he didn't have was anyone with this level of client account handling and actual marketing knowledge in the team. That was a key reason why he'd offered this particular candidate the role.  Within 24 hours, the candidate had a totally different perspective - they were giving a lot of skills to the agency that they didn't have.  Understanding that they couldn't become a technical guru overnight - (and actually the MD didn't really need a technical guru) allowed a big change in mindset and indeed confidence.  The IDM Diploma doesn't add a huge amount of value on a day to day basis but it does give this candidate a degree of confidence that they know the theory. Finally, the knowledge that the marketing landscape has changed and that in order to succeed in future, some digital knowledge is essential for any role, made the candidate realise that actually it was worth sticking at and making it work.

As always, it proves that there's not many problems that can't be rectified with some communication!  The candidate is 3 months on now and much happier.  In a small agency, it can be hard to fit in immediately, especially if you don't feel like you are hitting the ground running.  The other big change is that the candidate now joins the team for their weekly Friday lunchtime pint which has led to much more acceptance within the team and less awkwardness when admitting that they need help or advice with a work problem.  I've no doubt that in 18 months time, this candidate will be looking at Digital AD roles and finding that this lateral move will pay dividends in the future.

1 Feb 2013

First Impressions...

I've mentioned in a previous blog that during an interview clients often make up their mind about the candidate within the first 5 minutes.  I read earlier today that actually we make eleven major decisions about one another in the first seven seconds of meeting...  The moment that the client/interviewer meets you, his or her brain will make a thousand computations: Are you someone to approach or to avoid? Are you friend or foe? Do you have status and authority? Are you trustworthy, competent, likeable, confident?  In the business world, first impressions are crucial and whilst you can't stop people from making snap decisions, you can understand how to make those decisions work in your favour.  Apparently first impressions are more heavily influenced by non verbal cues than verbal cues and studies have found that non verbal cues have over four times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say.

This was brought home to me last week.  I had a candidate interviewing with a respected digital marketing agency.  The candidate was well briefed and has some good and relevant experience. Strong academically and with excellent references.   Post interview, the client rang me quickly with some feedback.  Ultimately, he'd decided within 2 minutes that the candidate's 'look' had put him off.  His description of her 'look' was Gothic and the client felt that it wasn't an appropriate look for the clients of the agency (lots of law and accountancy firms).   From that point onwards, it's unlikely that the candidate could have done anything to persuade the client of her suitability for the role.  Indeed, the client was apologetic that whilst the candidate was well qualified and a very competent candidate, the fit clearly wasn't right.

This got me thinking in terms of the rights and wrongs of this situation.  I always advise candidates to dress appropriately for interviews.  But...the definition of appropriate varies from client to client.  Also, different people like/don't like to show their individuality in their outward apparel.  The Goth in question had several ear and facial piercings and fairly heavy eye makeup and I can appreciate that this wouldn't be 'appropriate' for a meeting with the partner of a Magic Circle law firm.  However, one of my favourite mantras is that there is somewhere for everyone and later that week, another digital agency having interviewed the same 'Goth', offered a role there and then.  This agency believes that it's important for their employees to be able to display their creative side (although I think they might like it to be dumbed down a little with client meetings!) but certainly on a day to day basis, the appearance of this candidate would present no problems.  I don't think the initial agency was wrong to say no and I do think we'll find them someone more suited to that perhaps more corporate environment.
Anyway, I've digressed from the main point about first impressions but obviously how you look relative to the work environment that you are interviewing for is key to how you will be perceived. 
Here are seven other non-verbal ways to make a positive first impression in an interview situation:
1. Adjust your attitude. People pick up your attitude instantly. Before you turn to greet someone, or enter the boardroom think about the situation and make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to embody.
2. Straighten your posture. Status and power are nonverbally conveyed by height and space. Standing tall, pulling your shoulders back, and holding your head straight are all signals of confidence and competence.
3. Smile. A smile is an invitation, a sign of welcome. It says, “I’m friendly and approachable.”
4. Make eye contact. Looking at someone’s eyes transmits energy and indicates interest and openness. (To improve your eye contact, make a practice of noticing the eye colour of everyone you meet.)
5. Raise your eyebrows. Open your eyes slightly more than normal to simulate the “eyebrow flash” that is the universal signal of recognition and acknowledgement.
6. Shake hands. This is the quickest way to establish rapport. It’s also the most effective. Research shows it takes an average of three hours of continuous interaction to develop the same level of rapport that you can get with a single handshake.
That's a few things to think about.  They might seem obvious but it's worth putting them into practice and seeing if they make a difference. 
On a final note,  I generally think when it comes to first interviews (for any role in the marketing world*) that when it comes to facial piercings less is more!

* appreciate that for a job in a piercing parlour, the opposite may be true!