18 Dec 2015

Job Jumping Juniors

The world of recruitment is constantly changing and that works on both sides - from a client perspective and from a job-hunter's perspective too.  As generations change, mindsets change and expectations change too.  I've written about this previously and there are plenty of exceptions to the 'rules' but where I think it is most important is with junior level candidates post graduation and I'm afraid I am pretty old school on this.  Increasingly frequently, I am seeing candidates who have perhaps between 8 and 12 months experience post graduation who having cut their teeth in an advertising (or marketing, or digital or PR) agency who have decided to move on.    It seems that the relief of securing a permanent job offer and now 'being on the career ladder' is short lived and quite quickly they become disillusioned with the role and they want to find something new.

Now, you could say that from a recruitment perspective, I shouldn't be complaining. After all, clients will often ask me to find them candidates with between 6-12 months experience so they don't have to train from scratch.  So having a regular pipeline of such candidates is theoretically a good thing.  However, I do think (and I've got quite a lot of evidence for this....) that the candidates who jump ship so early in their career, are starting a habit of job jumping and their reaction to difficult challenges in the office environment or if they don't like a new client account, or if they don't like a line manager....the answer is to move agency rather than to either try to solve the issue or to knuckle down and realise that throughout our careers we're going to have challenges thrown at us and we've got to be equipped with the skills to manage those challenges....by responding to them in situ.

I love helping junior level candidates. I've been in the industry for a long time and many people who I've placed at AE level, I've gone on to place them at AD level... but increasingly I'm having to counsel juniors to stay put.  On the one hand, I do get it.  Often a key driver is money and we all want to earn more.  However, the equation is really that more experience equates to more money and frankly, often a 6 month stint, doesn't justify the jump that the candidates are seeking.  

If you've accepted your first role in the industry and you're getting good experience, you're learning every day, you're being mentored/trained on the job and you're getting the hang of writing a creative brief or developing a wireframe....great!  Stay there for 18 months to 2 years and you'll have a lot more choice when it comes to the second role in the industry. You'll be more commercially focused, you'll have followed more campaigns through from concept to completion, you'll be able to say you've developed proper relationships with your clients and with your internal colleagues.  Learn from the challenges and then take that experience with you.  Clients like staying power - it demonstrates that you're likely to stay with them and they'll then want to invest in you.

Obviously sometimes these things are outside your control.  If you're unlucky enough to be made redundant or there are some other significant 'issues' then justifiably you can search for something new.  

I keep hearing junior level candidates telling me they've been 'headhunted' but really that's just lazy recruiters who have paid for a higher level of access on LinkedIn to search for 'Account Executives'...be very wary!  I know it's a good ego boost but it's worth reminding yourself of what attracted you to the current role and try not to be swayed by promises of more money.

Equally, I do think that employers are increasingly aware of this rising problem and they are doing more to retain staff and to ensure that there is a structured career progression.  If you're not - beware, you'll lose good people.  Well trained juniors are a valuable commodity and if you're not looking after them, they'll be poached.  Commitment to training and progression does buy you employee loyalty so it's worth investing in.

I hope that wasn't a rant.  It wasn't meant to be!

13 Nov 2015

CV Buzzwords

I try not to make a habit of looking at Daily Mail Online but it does provide useful fodder for discussion.  Recently they had an article which was titled: 'How describing yourself as a hard-working team player could be hindering your career'.  So far, so Daily Mail.  As usual, it wasn't a great article but it made some useful points - not least that the most important thing on a CV is to make sure there are no typos.  Anyway, they had a list of the words that should not be on your CV....which included:

Team Player
Strategic thinker

I did a spot check of a few CVs on my desk and these words are scattered liberally across every single one of them.  The worst offender, in my view, is in the Personal profile.  The aim of the Personal profile is to give an overview of what you are and what you are looking for.  Generally, however, it ends up being a long list of words - pretty much the same as the list above.  In which case, I'm actually in accord with the Daily Mail - they should be avoided.

However, I emailed my client base to ask their opinion and I got a lot of response (seems it isn't just me who gets wound up by employees telling me how passionate they are...).  The other key point is that it's how you use these words - so as ever, context is all important.

If you are going to use a word like reliable - give an example of how you can demonstrate it. Then it's not just a meaningless word.  Results-driven?  Show an example of where you made a real difference to the bottom line.

Trying to get your CV to stand out (for the right reasons...) amongst a sea of beige, can often be challenging but you'll find that your interview conversion is maximised by spending a bit more time on your CV and ensuring that you give examples, you back-up any claims to world domination and you talk about your projects that you have managed.  Wherever possible, tailor the CV to a specific role and if a Job Description is available, tailor your CV according to this specification - imagine that the potential employer is 'marking' your CV with a red pen - and if you've liberally scattered elements of the job spec' into the CV, you're going to score highly and therefore secure an interview.

The Mail was right to say that you should avoid jargon and corporate speak - it's meaningless anyway, particularly on a CV.  No-one is interested in reading about joined up, Blue Sky thinking etc.

In fact, I tend not to get too wound up about personal profiles as I have come to a resigned acceptance that they are seldom any good.  So I often ignore them. It winds me up more when I read a long sentence of words describing what someone does in their job.  Again, just selecting a couple from CVs currently on my desk: 

"Marketing professional with experience of implementing integrated marketing communications to deliver a range of targeted campaigns."
"Brand development, delivery of direct marketing campaigns using online and offline channels, website content management, event management and developing relationships with external marketing and design agencies.

So what do you actually do? It's as clear as mud.  It's just words.  Often very strong candidates have very poor CVs - so it isn't always an indicator of quality of candidate, but it does mean you're either a bit complacent about your ability or a bit lazy (and potential employers don't like those 'qualities'.  It's essential to spend proper time on your CV, proof read it, ask a friend or colleague to critique it and if you're guilty of too much blah, do something about it!

20 Oct 2015

The importance of 2nd Interviews...

I spoke to a candidate this month who had rejected a role, post interview, based on the fact that she couldn't see herself  in the working environment of a small agency based in Manchester (it's a well established agency and is purposefully small but perfectly formed).  The candidate had previously worked in a much bigger agency and one of their frustrations had been that their responsibilities and scope of that particular role had been limited.    So I advised that perhaps it would be a good idea to interview at several different agencies to identify whether a smaller agency could offer some new challenges (lots of people work in hybrid roles, you have to all muck in together and wear different hats etc).

This particular agency was very interested in the candidate. They interviewed well and the client was poised to offer the job.  However, when collecting feedback from the candidate, they commented that there was no-one in the office, it was very quiet, there was no-one in reception and on a daily basis, that would be a difficult environment to work in.  They had thought the actual role sounded very interesting and the agency was doing some innovative and creative work - very responsive to the evolving digital world and there were some exciting clients to work on too.

Part of the role of the recruiter is to manage and challenge expectations of both the candidate and the client.  Of course, I said to the candidate, the difference in working environment is relative to your last agency which was one of the biggest in Manchester - clearly there will be differences. However, perhaps you caught them on a day when there were many client meetings, people on holiday, perhaps there were people in the office but they had their heads down working, perhaps the receptionist had nipped out to the Post Office - there are a multitude of reasons for it being a little quiet.

The optimal course of action was to recommend a second interview to go back to the agency and meet the team, to interview on a different day - and a different time of day and to chat to some of the people they'd be working with on a daily basis.  This is an award winning agency and generally, happy and empowered employees love to talk to potential future employees as they treat it as a close knit team environment - it's very motivating for them to be included in the recruitment process as they genuinely feel that their opinion matters and therefore are a trusted and important member of the agency team.

To cut a long story short....The candidate loved the agency and is now keeping their fingers crossed for an offer.  Remember that the role had always been the perfect role, they were just questioning the environment.  I'm finding this more frequently now that employers are offering flexibility on out of hours interviewing. Whilst it's more convenient for candidates, it doesn't always allow the agency to come across as it actually is on a daily basis.  I recommend that at least one interview is held during work hours and wherever possible, potential employees have the opportunity to meet the team and get a feel for who they'll be working alongside.

Clearly if the role hadn't been attractive and the environment didn't fit, then I doubt the candidate would have made it to second round full stop.  However, if there are just little niggles or reservations that you think can be ironed out, it's worth returning for a second interview (if invited...).  I truly believe that given you spend so much of your life at work, it's really important to tick as many boxes as you can - and that's what the interview process is all about.   A second interview is a sanity check and the opportunity to ask the questions you didn't ask at first interview and to really visualise yourself working there every day.  

I've not done any proper quantitative research on this, however, typically, if employees are hired on a one interview basis.....they don't tend to stay in role as long as people who have had a more robust interview process.  Just something to consider when looking at recruitment costs...

13 Sep 2015

LinkedIn - keeping it clean

This week, the news was full of the Human Rights Lawyer (female) who outed another (male) Lawyer after he had commented (favourably) on her LinkedIn photo. I've been mulling over this story to try to establish how I feel about it.  I'm certainly no fan of misogynist comments or sexism in or out of the workplace, but equally,  I do think that social media has made clouded professionalism in a work context and on a daily basis.  The argument in the media story is largely about sexism so I'm adapting the story to a recruitment context and how generally, LinkedIn can either add value or detract from a person's employability.

I see photographs and comments that make me question a person's mental state of mind if they perceive that their behaviour is 'appropriate' for the public domain.  I've read a lot of commentary this week in the press and genuinely, I don't think that the media know the half of it.  On a daily basis, I have to (diplomatically) suggest to candidates that they might perhaps tone down their picture on LinkedIn.  Too often I see holiday snaps which are more 'appropriate' to Facebook  - anything involving a cocktail or a bikini has no place on LinkedIn.  To say that some individuals get confused between their photographs for Tinder and LinkedIn is not an exaggeration.  Whilst I don't want to come over all curmudgeonly, I do think that we all need to remember that LinkedIn is a professional networking site and employers do use the site to vet potential employees as part of the hiring process. It's also typically the first port of call when one meets a new professional acquaintance.  First impressions do count and how you present yourself on a professional networking site is actually pretty important and a reflection of how you want to be perceived in the professional marketplace.

I don't think we need to all have portait photographs professionally done - and in fact, you can still convey personality and warmth without having to go for a cold and unfriendly business stare.  Lots of my clients are marketing and advertising agencies, and most seem to have got it right with decent photographs that don't look too formal and stiff but make individuals look approachable, friendly and still professional.  A simple head and shoulders portrait is fine.

It's not just the photography although I'd say this is what 80% of employers will judge you on.  LinkedIn is essentially a public CV, accessible to all.  It needs to be regularly updated and maintained.  If you are going to bother having a profile, make sure it is up to date and accurate.  I've come across several employees who have been caught out with inaccuracies on their profile - and in one case, this lost someone their job.   I'm not yet convinced by the 'endorsements' side of things.  Mostly I think people click on this link as a prompt rather than as a real endorsement.  I do think LinkedIn will continue to grow and we're all on a bit of a learning curve as to it's usefulness.  I  know some recruiters who have ditched their own databases and they're treating LinkedIn as the world's largest recruitment database.  That's not how I operate but it's worth remembering!

In the Laywer case.  It turns out that the Senior Silk sent the comments in a private message and whilst Ms Proudman (the Human Rights Lawyer) had sent him a private message in return, she then decided to out him to the Twitterati.  The comments weren't originally public so I do feel a bit of discomfort about the naming and shaming.

In summary, as with all things.  Use your common sense about what is professional and appropriate in a work context.  Never forget that LinkedIn is public and once something is up there in the public domain, it's very difficult to get rid of.

My top 5 tips:

A professional, yet warm photograph
Keep your work history up to date
Keep your status up to date (you can avoid unwanted approaches from Cowboy recruiters!)
Secure genuine recommendations - more powerful than endorsements. NB. Not just your mates where you've done one for them and vice versa
Follow industry experts or companies you are interested in and join groups which are relevant to your sector - you'll then get more out of it by staying in touch with these businesses.

16 Aug 2015

A levels, degrees & Apprenticeships...

This week we've seen the annual publication of A level results and with it a lot of media commentary about the choices of young school leavers.    There has been a lot of discussion about there being more girls choosing university with more boys heading off to apprenticeships. we've had the usual 'A levels are too easy' and then interestingly we've also had a couple of blue chip businesses telling us how they're scrapping their previous insistence upon 3 Bs at A level (minimum) for entry to the business and they'll be looking at other verbal and written 'tests' instead.

I'm not sure where I stand on all of this.  I think my opinions are evolving and that's based on hearing on a daily basis what my clients are looking for, what they're feeding back to me in terms of candidate quality and also from my own day to day contact with candidates and seeing just how 'qualified' today's graduate really is in getting stuck into a job.  I've got some clients who only look at candidates from a top university, some clients who look at A levels being more of a 'definer' than anything else. I've got a couple of clients who look at the school that the candidate went to and then puts a weighting on their results.  A Manchester Grammar school pupil for example with 3Ds at A level would be shunned...but someone with 3Cs from a Winstanley College would be given an interview (the theory going that if you get 3Ds with all the extra funding and tuition that MGS has....you're either thick or lazy...). Sorry to be so blunt.

I was lucky. I think I was probably in the last couple of years of students who actually had a grant and some form of contribution to allow me to go to University. In my family - it was a real aspiration of my parents (both university graduates themselves) that their children would graduate and have a full choice of opportunities in the world.  I loved University, I had the best 3 years of my life there, discovered a lot about myself, learned how to be an adult and then loved it so much, I stayed on to do  a Masters....which actually taught me a lot too. It taught me that in spite of Chemistry being a brilliant degree, it wasn't what I was meant to be doing as a career.  I then had a narrow escape, 80% of Chemists become Accountants and I turned down an offer of a job with then Coopers & Lybrand...I took a role with a global chemical business as a Marketing Assistant...and that started me off in Marketing.  I was fortunate that my employer paid for me to do the Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma which essentially brought me up to speed with all the theory and from that day forth, I learned on the job.  Had some great bosses, had some terrible bosses...learned from both varieties!

And today I own my own recruitment business and am my own boss.

Was four years studying chemistry a contributory factor to where I am today?  I think so.,  I am still an advocate of 'proper' academic subjects and think that I gained from the analytical and research focused methodology that I used in my degree and masters.  However, I didn't have to finish my degree in significant debt to do it.  If I was in the same position today, I'm not at all sure what I'd do.  In my day, a holiday job in a hotel (admittedly working 17 hour days), was enough to keep me in the black during term time (just) but that isn't realistic these days.

I think the answer to the whole 'is university worth it' question is very complex. It's quite dependent on what your vocation is.  I think for example (my own personal opinion again!), that if I wanted a career in PR.  I would not do a degree in PR.  I would either do a degree in English or Creative writing or Journalism.....(at a push) or try to secure a role post A level with an increasing number of PR agencies happy to take on A level school leavers and train them.  A degree in say, Graphic Design...you learn a lot and you will also gain work experience which is invaluable.  I don't think you need a degree to be a good PR Account Manager.  It won't do you any harm, but do you really want to get into that much debt for it when you could be earning from day one.  Similarly, if you want to be an Accountant, I'd look for a role with one of the big companies after A levels...If you know that's what you want to do, you should be earning straight away.  I understand it's not the same as it used to be - going away for 3 years and 'finding yourself.  I think you've got to weigh up the pros and cons and go from there.  I think too, young people have to be savvy about the choices they make in terms of course.  For example, Nottingham Trent have a Marketing course where 2 years are actually spent in industry....where you get paid!  So the first year is all taught and all theory...but the subsequent two are on the job.  Perfect. Plus they have links with all the big FMCG companies too.

If (like a lot of people), you really do want to go down the university route and you don't know what you want to be/do.  Do an academic subject at a decent university.  Don't go to Bolton to do Media Studies. Address the snobbery issue.  Apprenticeships are not just about plumbing and becoming an electrician. Lots of the big blue chip companies in the UK now are accepting A level candidates and it's definitely worth exploring all your options.  The one, final thing I would say is that having good A levels does open doors and give you choices.  No, it's not a disaster area if you have lower grades and have to re-set your expectations but at least giving those exams your absolute all, is definitely worth it to give you choices in later life.

21 Jul 2015

Psychometric Tests...

Probably 80% of the roles that PMP work on tend to be within Marketing, Digital or Advertising agencies.  Sometimes, we see some wonderful and wacky recruitment processes with briefs designed to test a candidate's creativity or understanding of brands & the customer journey.  What we don't see very often is the use of psychometric testing*. Typically this is a tool utilised only in-house or clientside.

Recently we've had a bit of a flurry of clientside roles and I've been surprised just how many companies do utilise psychometric tests as part of their recruitment decision making and how even after a strong interview, the results of such a test can completely alter the recruiter's opinion of the candidate.

These 'questionnaires' are supposed to discover what kind of person you are in ways that you wouldn't necessarily admit to in an interview, with questions designed to expose how you behave and what motivates you. A good test will be set up to pick up on any inconsistencies and make it difficult for you to put on an act – there is a built-in "lie scale".  Some companies may additionally utilise an aptitude test which is supposed to show how good you are at tasks required in the job and may measure how quickly you get to the right answer. The employer may have a minimum score you have to achieve, or be looking for the candidate with the best score.  

In my view Psychometric and Aptitude tests are only any good if the recruiter knows what they are trying to measure and why. Where they often fail is when people try to use them to assess things that you can't measure, such as creativity or leadership.  The recruiter needs to decide what kind of traits they think make a good leader and look for those.  I'll try to be diplomatic here because there are some companies who think they ought to be using these tests and so they brief HR to use them, without really giving them a proper understanding of the profiles of the person that they want in the role.  Having said that, I do work with several global businesses who do it properly so I'm not (honestly!) having a pop at HR people.

You can't actually 'ace' a psychometric test – the recruiter is using it to see what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how they match up with the job requirements.  Typically recruiters are looking for whether you are a leader or a team player, whether you work well under pressure, whether you are passive in terms of management or potentially a bit of a livewire - none of these are necessarily negatives - it depends on the role in question.

However, while the other elements of the recruitment process should be taken into account, I've observed that clients do take a lot of notice of these tests (those who don't rate the results, don't use them).   A recent candidate was at third stage for a senior marketing role when the tests revealed them not to be able to manage conflict and they were rejected outright.  It turned out the company was in a state of flux with several senior stakeholders proving difficult to manage and the company wanted someone 'robust' enough to deal with it.  On hearing this, the candidate decided they didn't want the role anyway!

In summary, I generally believe you can tell a lot about a person from their CV without the need for the cost and time required to do extensive psychometric testing.  I look for length of time in roles, progression since graduation - speedy or slow, have they spent time crafting their CV or is it a bit sloppy.  Interviewing adds a huge amount of value - I've become pretty good at reading people and getting an understanding of whether they are a doer, a thinker, a leader, a bullsh***** etc. I've also got clients who will analyse school results and will make quite powerful judgements based on A level grades and achievements at university - this includes choice of subject and university.  Giving candidates a brief for a second stage interview tests them properly - how much effort have they put in? How well do they present? How nervous are they? (thinking, how credible will they be in front of my clients)  I then apply all my marketing and recruitment years of experience to understand where those skills could be utilised. There is somewhere for everyone!

* there are exceptions...One of my agency clients does use aptitude tests and often this will involve a test in Excel - nothing particularly complicated, just adding up budgets etc.  Last year a candidate was rejected as they asked for a calculator to check their figures.  This was an Account Director role...

26 Jun 2015

What your email address says about you...

Theoretically, it's the content of your CV and your covering letter/email that count.  These days, the life of a recruitment consultant is one glued to your inbox and where both candidates and clients prefer to email rather than chat.  Obviously it's much easier to surreptitiously and silently contact your favourite recruiter without constantly nipping out of the office but it does mean that the recruiters life can be one dimensional.  Anyway, the point is, I see a lot of email addresses and I've decided that what your email says about you, can be quite significant - both in terms of what comes before the @ and what comes after it.  

Seriously. The email is often the first thing that the eye is drawn to at the top of a CV.  If it says sexydancer@whatever.com (I'll use whatever.com as my generic domain name for the purposes of this topic) or dramaqueen22@whatever.com....then my first impressions are already tainted. Similarly, there seems to be a preponderance of the use of the numbers 69 and 666.

So firstly, what comes before the @.  Why does it matter?  Because the CV is representing you in a professional manner and during the course of your applications, many prospective employers and recruiters are going to see that email....and judge you.  So whilst you may think that psychosuzy@whatever.com is just a bit of a giggle, it doesn't immediately shout 'hire me' to the person reading your CV.  I also see a lot of addresses like thejonesfamily@whatever.com.  Now, far be it from me to hold it against you that you have a 'family' email, however, what that says to a client is that you have a family life and you won't be working late, might need time off for sick days and football matches.  I've always said that a CV needs to avoid giving potential employers any fodder to hold against you - it's why I'm really very anti any photography on a CV and whilst I understand the 'take me as I am' argument. Wouldn't you prefer to get to interview stage on the merits of your skills and employment history rather than someone thinking you're just a bit of a joke or that your family commitments mean your job doesn't come first (again, I'm not saying that family shouldn't come first but in the CV selection process, you've got to come across with the persona that the job comes first - at least during working hours).  And, as that employer will have a big pile of CVs to go through, this is the sort of thing that can mean your CV ends up in the 'no' pile rather than being shortlisted for interview.

Secondly, what comes after the @ is apparently important too.  I hadn't really realised this but I saw a recent post on another site which I'm going to steal and just refer you too.  Made me snort and actually there are a lot of truths in it!  http://theoatmeal.com/comics/email_address.

I've been in this industry a while.  I'm no psychologist and so I'm constantly surprised by how people behave and how people think it's appropriate to behave during the recruitment process. I guess it's all tied up with how you perceive yourself and how you would like others to perceive you (oh yes, sixpacksteve@whatever.com).  But in a professional environment, when you're wanting someone to say 'you're hired', don't give any points away with an unfunny email address.  Although on the plus side, it does give me material for my book!

17 May 2015

The Overenthusiastic Interviewee

It's a tricky one this.  The Overenthusiastic Interviewee.  It's quite common that when a client is giving me feedback on a candidate who has recently interviewed, that they will say that the candidate didn't demonstrate enough interest or enthusiasm for the job and therefore the job has gone to someone else.  Usually when briefing candidates for interview, I re-enforce to them, just how important that enthusiasm is.  After all, if you come across as not wanting the job, why would the employer want to hire you?

So last week, I had the complete opposite. A candidate lost out to another individual as a result of being over-enthusiastic.  This is pretty rare but it reminded me that it can happen and it's a worthy reminder not to sabotage your job interview by coming across a little hyper.

In this particular example, the candidate was so determined to prove to the employer that they were the right candidate for the job that they made a few errors:

1.  Talked too much.  The client remarked afterwards that he felt that the answers to questions were long and rambling.  The key learning for this is that if you know can ramble, practice keeping your answers concise.

2.  Too loud.  The candidate became louder and more strident with each answer, often talking over the client, anticipating questions and finishing their sentences for them.  This is annoying in any environment, in an interview situation, it's actually rude.  Ask a friend or colleague to practice some interview Q&A with you.

3.  The client felt 'bulldozed' by the remarkable energy and passion of the candidate.  They felt that this person would be difficult to manage and be high maintenance.  Most Managers want as easy a life as possible when it comes to managing their teams.  They usually look for a fun, approachable individual who has the right skills for the job.  Over the top energy is very off-putting and likely to raise questions about how you can fit into the team.

Some of this can be attributable to nerves and most clients understand that an interview situation can be a stressful one and that candidates may exhibit nerves.  However, if you are interviewing for a client servicing position or one where you will be client facing, an employer is more likely to be concerned by the overenthusiastic interviewee.  They'll worry about your performance with clients and if they do have other candidates to choose from, it's likely that you'll miss out.  If you think that you are guilty of over-enthusiasm and that you sometimes overwhelm people with your passion, make sure you do ask for feedback from your recruiter or the company you are interviewing with and make some adaptions to your interview technique.  Practice really does make perfect but by asking a friend or colleague to help you out, you won't lose out practising in real interviews!

As with most things in life.  This is all about balance and moderation.  You have to come across positively and to convey that you really do want the job but don't overstep the mark.  If during an interview you feel like you are losing your grip on self control and sabotaging the interview, just take a deep breath, moderate your volume and speak more slowly.  You can always get an interview back on track!

21 Apr 2015

Interview Prep...

I always advise candidates of two key things when they have secured an interview...  The first is to ensure that you do your homework in terms of researching the company, the role and the person interviewing you.  The second is to never be too honest.  I was reminded of this second piece of advice last week when a candidate failed to secure a second interview with a top Manchester agency and they couldn't understand why.

The client had asked the question, 'Why do you want to leave your current job'.  A perfectly reasonable question and one that is asked in 99% of all interviews.  If you haven't prepared a good answer to this question then you really have failed in your preparation.

So imagine the conversation...

Employer: Why do you want to leave your current job?
Candidate: It would be a good job if my boss weren’t a psycho control freak and his boss weren’t an alcoholic crackhead.
Employer: Wow! Um, I’m out of time right now but — we’ll let you know.
Ok. I'm exaggerating (slightly), it wasn’t quite that bad but who can blame the employer for withdrawing the candidate from the process.
When answering why you are leaving your job, you should be careful not to harm your chances of getting hired – Certain things need not be revealed to interviewers.
At the end of the day, the new employers should know whether you can do the job, whether you will fit into the company culture and what is your motivation level.
You want to give the most truthful answer while:
  1. Not presenting any haphazard or negative image about yourself.
  2.  Not blaming your bosses because blaming others creates a negative idea about your professionalism.
  3. Not revealing any problematic (or personal) information.
QUESTION: Why do you want to leave your job?   Here are two answers to compare:
ANSWER 1: I don’t feel I’m going anywhere in my current job. The Morale in my department is very low, and the management doesn’t give feedback or rewards. I don’t like working there anymore.
ANSWER 2: After working in [your current company] for more than 5 years, where I have learned a lot on [your profession]- I am now a master/expert in [A, B, C] working plus managing people and exploring new markets for our products, it is time for me to move on and enhance my professional growth. I want to improve my overall skills by joining a larger and more progressive organization where I can learn/utilise [other skills] and experience in several different areas.  I am also ready to take more responsibilities and feel I am competent for X, Y, Z ..
The difference between the two answers is obvious – One is negative and the second is positive:
The first answer communicates too many negatives about your current job while the second one uses positive language – you have good thoughts on your current job (you are even grateful) and yet have clear-mind toward skills, accomplishments and future prospects.   It is important to stress the positive aspects by communicating strengths, purpose, and enthusiasm. You must make an impression that you are seating in front of the interviewer for a well thoughtful reason – You have an organised career plan, positive attitude and clear job target.

Leaving a job is no longer the stigma it once was. In fact, people who stay places for too long – especially with no almost change in their role or responsibilities – are much more suspect to many employers nowadays.
BUT … no matter what really happened, never talk trash about a former employer. A new employer will assume that you’ll do the same to them one day. So frame your answer in a way that shows you did well there (have examples prepared if at all possible) and got along well with co-workers. But for the reason(s) you select it’s now time to move on.
In general you want to focus interview answers, as much as possible, on where you’re going rather than where you’ve been. Even stories from the past should point to skills you want to use now. But you still have to answer the questions they ask, so be prepared!

30 Mar 2015

Employee Retention...

I read a few weeks ago that JP Morgan employees were banned from making anything other than minimal use of LinkedIn.  According to reports in eFinancialcareers.com, the heads of department in the bank, apparently were exasperated by staff parading themselves as available for hire.  The new ‘regulations’ state that you can only give your name, corporate title and a generic description of the bank. Endorsements and recommendations are forbidden.

LinkedIn is a great resource for lazy recruiters.  Typically the recruiters who use it don’t have their own database or relationships and most often will work on a candidate led approach.  Find a candidate then approach companies speculatively with the candidate to generate interest.  For employees, LinkedIn is mostly just a way to show all the people you went to school with what you do now – see how successful I am!

However, employee retention is big business.  Talent is difficult and costly to find, particularly in the digital market-place.  Once you’ve secured and trained talent, it makes sense to keep hold of it.  Companies go to all kinds of lengths now to keep staff – from cocktails at 4pm on a Friday, free fruit, flexible hours ... and the relatively new phenomenon of ‘Stay Interviews’.

Over the past few months, we have seen the return of the ‘buyers’ or ‘candidate driven market’.  For top talent, it’s not unusual for a candidate to be inundated with multiple job offers.  As a result, job seekers can be more selective and will often wait for an offer that meets specific criteria.  This has created a war on talent that requires employers to compete more heavily for good candidates than ever before. They also need to be more alert to signs of dissatisfaction or restlessness on the job.  This is where the Stay Interview comes into practice.  It’s typically a mid employment conversation designed to give companies an ‘insight into what employees like and dislike about their job’ and to ‘win back their loyalty’ before they have left.   Exit interviews are still used but much less than previously – you might learn why someone is leaving and can therefore act to reduce other people doing the same, however, it’s too late to encourage that particular employee to change their mind and that’s why the Stay Interview has become more popular.

I think it’s worth reviewing employee retention in the workplace, however, I find increasingly that young people don’t have much sense of company loyalty.  The concept of ‘a job for life’ is very outdated and various surveys across Britain have found that 91% of millennials expect to have 15 to 20 jobs over the course of their working lives.

People often leave companies for issues that the company itself cannot control.  HR people try to encourage retention by developing career paths, feedback, compensation etc, however, as the cliché goes, you join a company but quit a manager.  Most people give up jobs because they can no longer stand their managers or colleagues.  In the PMP annual salary survey, we review what factors encourage employees to stay in their role.  Essentially, employees want to do an inspiring job in a decent working environment with the freedom to do good, interesting work and to feel valued for their contribution.  If employees are stimulated, challenged and surrounded by colleagues from whom they can learn, they will stay.   The JP Morgan strategy is more likely to hamper the efforts of lazy recruiters using LinkedIn to source candidates and if the employee is feeling challenged and valued in their role, they’re not so likely to be vulnerable to poaching.

28 Feb 2015

Darth Vader Job Ads...

I've been in recruitment for a long time so it stands to reason that I've been writing job adverts for a long time too.  I used to be of the opinion that it didn't really matter what went into the advert - job hunters would search for a job title, a location and a salary and then if the role sounded vaguely suitable, they'd apply for it.    The onset of online job applications has radically changed the world of recruitment and in fact, I think job hunters are too trigger happy when it comes to firing off job applications - but that is another blog.

I do think though, that writing a good job advert is a skill and shows that we're taking the role of recruiter seriously.  I read an article recently which talked about the way that companies drive away candidates and future employees with destructive recruitment practices.  One of them  was the use of 'Darth Vader' job adverts.  'The selected candidate will have blah blah'.   Many many job adverts from recruiters have this sort of tone to them but I try to inject a little bit more personality. After all, it's the chemistry and fit that usually match someone up to a company and a role as much as their skills and experience.

The other point is that if a recruitment agency is advertising for a candidate, whilst they would say they are recruiting for a specific business, they are often writing generic adverts to attract candidates to their database - that's an advert that has a lot of blah and not very much specific information.  Recruiters often worry too that too much information is handing leads on a plate to their competitors.  I'm not joking!  Some recruiters scour their competitors websites to try to work out what companies they are working for and they'll then get on the phone to chase.   A good recruiter doesn't have time for that and is too busy trying to fill their existing briefs to shark around and worry what the competition is doing.

Anyway, I digress. When writing an advert for a new role, I generally start off with a bit of info about the company, then talk about the role, then talk about other salient points.  I don't write war and peace - that's the purpose of  a job description.  However, the purpose of the advert is to attract the right profile of candidate and to then get them excited about the role.  I had a role recently which was a client services position to work in an agency on a fashion sector account.  I had an unprecedented response.  Had I utilised the same advert with no sector information or said it was to work on a global IT distributor....I think the response would have been very different!  So it's proof that job hunters do read the spec'.  I also think that if you see an advert online that stands out - it's worth getting on the phone to chat through the role with the recruiter.

Recruitment has changed as an industry with email and text.  No-one wants to talk anymore!  In defence of job hunters, it's not easy in a busy office to be talking about jobs with your friendly recruiter.  If I do get a call in response to a job advert, I can be pretty sure that the candidate is keen and motivated - and that's a great starting point for a conversation.  Equally, when I get emails saying 'Dear Sarah' (My name is Fiona...), it's pretty evident that the cut and paste job application process is in full swing - not such a good start.

So there are a few messages in here.  For recruiters, it's to make sure job adverts are enticing and real and for job hunters to take time to apply for relevant roles with personalised cover emails/letters. You may just find that the response rate increases radically - for both parties!

26 Jan 2015

Asking the right questions...

There have been several interviews recently where candidates have fallen down during interviews on what I would refer to as ‘the basics’.  This includes several candidates who have asked questions which really should be on an interview black list* – it reminded me of the importance of asking a) questions during interviews and b) relevant ones.

Often candidates will have spent all their preparation time thinking of answers to the questions that the recruiter might ask them.  And of course, spending some time on this is essential.  However...
The questions that a candidate asks can be as revealing to hiring managers as their responses.  Asking questions demonstrates engagement and interest. It shows that the candidate wants to find out if the company and the role are a good fit for them.  Being proactive with questions can allow a more natural flow to the conversation during an interview.  Ask questions that show you have a genuine personal interest in the company and its products.   Don’t fake interest – it will be obvious.  A candidate recently interviewed for a client services role in a leading advertising agency.  They were interviewing for a role on a top retail client and prior to the first interview, the candidate had visited several of the retailer’s stores and also reviewed what their two top competitors were doing.  They went to the interview armed with pre-prepared questions about the in-store strategy and their observations about what the competitors were doing.  The client, faced with two candidates with equivalent experience, took this candidate to the next stage citing their ‘intelligent and prepared’ questions a key differentiator.

Top tips for interview questions:
·         Do your homework – website, social media etc
·         A bit of chit chat at the start of the interview goes a long way....but don’t go too off topic or hijack the interview.
·         Have a pre-written list of questions – you can annotate the job description with these – it shows you have thought about the role and the interview in advance
·         Never ask about holidays, working hours or sick pay at first interview...
·         Don’t ask questions that highlight you’ve done no research. Clients do not want to be asked ‘what does the company do?’
·         Always at the end of the interview ask the interviewer if they have any doubts about your ability to do the job (you can counter them)  and what is the next step in the process
·         Get the balance right.  The interviewer should not feel that they are being interviewed!

*Recent bloopers include, ‘do you do background checks?’, ‘do you monitor email and internet usage?’ and ‘what is the sick pay policy?’