7 Dec 2016

Doing your homework...

I’ve been doing this job for a while now.    Weirdly it’s not too repetitive – all my candidates are different and jobs are evolving all the time, particularly with the constant growth of the digital sector.  One thing that is repetitive is my advice to candidates whenever I send them an email to confirm an interview.  I always say the same thing, ‘Whilst this is a first interview and no formal preparation is required, I always recommend that you do some homework’.  I don’t use email templates so I actually type this quite a lot and every time that I type it, I think to myself, that’s great advice.
Often I ask myself whether it is necessary to state the obvious.   After all, it’s common  sense right?

 Hmm. Wrong.   I frequently see a strong CV and in recruiter speak, can think that the candidate is a ‘shoo-in’ for the job.  Equally, a very wrong assumption. 

Another thought I often have is that ‘people are weird’.  Actually, that one is a fact.

Sometimes the best CVs do not necessarily reflect the best candidates (of course, they can be too).  However, this week, I had a situation where I was as sure as I could be that I’d found the best person for the job - for a mid sized indie agency in Manchester.   I briefed the candidate who assured me they would do their research and left them to it.  BIG MISTAKE.  Everyone needs a bit of coaching, even the most senior of candidates, in fact, often the most senior candidates.  The C word today is Complacency.  The feedback from the client was reasonably positive initially – ‘nice guy, clearly enjoys what he does’ and then not so positive, ‘had done no research on us, didn’t understand our proposition, didn’t show any interest in our offering’.  Ouch.  Any other recruiter might not take that badly but I take it a little personally. It means I haven’t done my job properly.  I haven’t engaged sufficiently with the candidate to ensure that they’ve done their preparation, that they truly want the job.  After all these years, I do believe if you really want the job, you do the homework.  So realistically, I know I can only control so much, I can’t force a candidate to swot up – and indeed, perhaps it’s a sign that they’re not really that bothered if they can’t bring themselves to do the background work.

Here’s my advice for interview prep:

  • Do your homework!
  • Start with the website – Make notes particularly on the case studies.
  • Ask the recruiter for a Job Description and a de-brief as to what the client wants.
  • Research the client social media platforms.
  • Look up the people interviewing you on LinkedIn
  • Do some Googling – just general stuff
  • Take some pre-prepared questions into the interview.  It’s not rocket science, just some simple ones – ideally not asking about sick leave policy or holidays!
  • Listen.  Too often candidates go in too gung-ho in an interview situation.  Try to be calm so that during the interview, you listen and react appropriately to questions. If you’ve done homework, you’ll be able to gain valuable brownie points against the competition.
  • Think about Marginal Gains.  Ultimately when it comes to interviews, clients generally will meet multiple candidates. You need to set yourself apart from the competition.  This might be about:
    • ·         Being up to speed about developments in the business – aware of anything specific and topical
    • ·         Showing excellent social skills – good handshake (don’t underestimate) or small-talk with the receptionist. Looking people in the eye.
    • ·         Being smart/casual/appropriately dressed.  Ask in advance.
  • Have answers to the ‘No brainer’ questions:
    • ·         What do you know about us.    If you fudge this with ‘not a lot’ or ‘only what’s on the website’ – you’re not going to get the job. 
    • ·         What brands do you love? What recent campaigns have you seen that have impressed you?·         
    • Why do you want to work for us?
    • Why do you think you’re a fit for our business?
    • Where do you want to be in 5 years time?

Your recruiter shouldn’t have to tell you all this.  It should come to you instinctively but I appreciate a bit of a nudge might help.  Do not assume that just because you have a ‘good’ CV, you’re going to get the job.  One client recently told me that whilst they did like the high achiever CVs, they often went for the profile of people who ‘tried harder’.  So people who’d come with 3Cs at A level as opposed to 3As.  They valued someone who worked really hard and who hadn’t been spoonfed.  The distinction was made for someone who had been at Manchester Grammar School and who had 3 A grade A levels and a 2.1 from Bristol (or similar).  That person wasn’t perhaps a ‘grafter’ so much as the person who’d got 3C’s from a local state school and a degree from Salford University.
That makes it sound like this is all aimed at entry level or junior people. It’s not really, employers still look at the academic stuff, way beyond your graduation date.  For more senior people, it’s mostly about how you come across, at a more senior level you’ll be dealing more directly with senior level clients and it’s essential that you come across as someone who has compassion, good leadership skills, ability to grow a client and credibility operating at a senior level.  Never assume that employers can mind read – you need to articulate your skills and strengths.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.  Do your homework!

10 Nov 2016

Covering Letters...

It’s quite tricky writing a recruitment blog. I’m often aware that I might sound like I’m whinging or that I sound grey and beyond my years.  The world of recruitment though is one area where I think there are still ‘niceties’ to be observed and whilst this world has evolved from the snail pace of the pre-email days (actually I don’t remember those...), but equally, it’s important to know where some element of formality and etiquette is required.  Obviously one size doesn’t fit all and recruitment is extremely subjective.  Whilst in professional services, you’d need to be suited and booted for interview, there are some advertising agencies who’d possibly reject you on that basis if you turned up like that.  So ultimately it’s about knowing your audience, which as marketers we’re all meant to do anyway.  Tailor your own personal message to who you are targeting and you won’t go far wrong.

Anyway, the subject of today’s rant – sorry, blog post was meant to be Covering Letters.  Folk in regular communication with me will already know that last week I had an application from a candidate with a very lengthy covering letter.  The main premise for their application was entirely based on them being a Virgo.  And whilst I wasn’t intending to offend anyone with astrological beliefs, it was a good example of a covering letter that did more harm than good and both the letter and the CV were sent to the virtual shredder.

These days 100% of my own job applicants come to me electronically.  Either through online job sites, email or recommendations.  Clearly, the requirement for a covering letter is dependent upon whether it is actually an ‘application’.  Most of my recommendations are candidates dropping me an email because I’ve helped a friend or colleague and they’ve passed on my details. In those situations, no covering letter is required.  A simple email with a CV attachment will suffice.  It’s worth perhaps giving me a couple of lines as to your own personal situation and I’ll then give the candidate a call for an initial chat and we’ll run any/all suitable roles by that person.

Where a candidate is applying for a specific role via a jobsite, I think generally you’ve either got to do all or nothing.  I appreciate that candidates apply for a lot of jobs but simply cutting and pasting a cover email just leads to errors.  I’m frequently in receipt of an email replying to a job advert for An Account Manager to find a covering email that says; ‘Dear Jane, I’m writing to apply for the role of Marketing Manager....’ and so on.  It has come to the point where I will review the CV first. If the CV is one that I can work with, I’ll call the candidate. Often, I won’t even look at the covering letter.  I imagine that other recruiters work on this basis too so it’s often pointless spending the time writing one.

If you are going to write a covering note. Keep it brief and to the point. Perhaps get a few salient points in there to spark an interest.  Make it relevant to the application. You need to try to catch the recruiter’s eye for the right reasons.  All CVs from online jobsites come as an attachment and a few words with the attachment are fine but like I say, brief, relevant and on message.

When I send CVs to my clients, I always write a synopsis of the candidate – typically only after I’ve met or had a good chat with them.  So I think your time is better spent on your CV.

Obviously, if you’re applying directly to a business from an advertisement, I’d pay more attention to the covering letter but most of my rules would still apply.   In the world of marketing, I can’t think of any client who would find your star sign relevant to your application for a job.  Pick out the words and phrases from the advertisement which you think are particularly relevant to you and respond to those points in your letter.  Don’t write war and peace – after all, you’re just trying to engage with the employer and highlight your skills but that can typically be done in a couple of short paragraphs. Your CV will (should) sell you in.  In my time as a recruiter I’ve come up with plenty of wacky approaches, particular from creative candidates, but ultimately, a strong CV will speak for itself and open doors.  I’m not saying wacky doesn’t work, but you need to again know your audience as it could just as easily go against you.  A few candidates have done video cover letters which, if done properly, can work well but it has to be appropriate to the environment you are applying to.  I can still remember one such video which made the candidate look and sound like an axe murderer.  However, the client loved it and he got the job.  He is still there 5 years on.   Don’t automatically assume that an Advertising agency will LOVE your totally unique and creative approach – sending a single sock to a client is a bit of a clich├ęd one.  However, if you’re certain you’ve got the measure of the person you are sending it to – go for it.

It is unforgivable to have typos or obvious copying & pasting in a covering letter and whilst the odd recruiter might overlook it, a direct client recruiter won’t.

So in summary, if you want to avoid being the subject of the Recruiter forum’s ‘highlight of the week’, stick to the basics and do it well.  Less is sometimes more and ultimately your CV will do most of the work for you,

Other application pet hates:

The use of the word Passion/Passionate. Grr.
The use of the word Strategic, by new graduates.
Inappropriate photos on CVs.  (In fairness I don’t like any photos on CVs – see previous blogs).
Typos.  Check your name (really).  Roll and Steakholder are the two most common bloopers.
Extended hobbies and interests.  Golf handicaps/marathon times/names of children/animals.

This list is not exhaustive. 

27 Oct 2016

Managing Expectations...

I'm pretty sure I've written about managing expectations before.  And without sounding a bit Eeyore-ish, specifically about lowering expectations.  I don't think I'm a pessimist, I'm a realist and to be honest that's what 10+ years working in this industry has done for me.

So the context of my theme 'Managing Expectations' is largely aimed at individuals who are relocating to the North.  Or at least, advertising and marketing professionals who are leaving London.  I've had a few conversations this week that I'm sure are just as frustrating for the candidates as they are for me.  I'd like to start with some basic observations:

I'm human.  I get that we all want to earn as much money as possible.
I'm a recruiter.  I want to make as much money as possible from each placement.
I'm a professional.  I'm not a Cowboy recruiter.  I have sound ethics.
I'm here for the long term.  I build long standing relationships with clients and candidates alike.
I have as much responsibility for my clients (the employers) as I do for my candidates (who are also clients).
I know what I'm talking about (when it comes to recruitment...).
I'm a realist.

The problem is that it takes time to build trust. Both from a client and a candidate perspective and that's why 'call ins' can be challenging.  This week, my first example was with a candidate who is originally from the North but post graduation, went off to the Big Smoke and now has 18 months agency experience in client services.  I asked for a CV and we then had a chat.  Great candidate, bright, engaging, has gained some excellent skills with a global agency, strong academic track record, commercially sound etc. I could go on.  So far so good, I was feeling very positive.  Until we got to the killer question.  'So', I said, 'What are we looking for money wise?'.   The candidate was very confident, 'I'm on £25k now but I'll be looking for a minimum of £26k in my next role'.   At this point, I'm always faced with a few challenges as to how to diplomatically tell a candidate that it's unlikely (but not impossible) that they will secure this.  And pretty much always, I'm then faced with resistance and the previously friendly conversation can go sideways.   So, I tried to rescue the conversation.  I asked whether other recruiters had advised similar - they had, and yet the candidate was convinced the world was against them and that there was no movement on money.  I switched tactic and asked about Job Title and role.  Things didn't improve. If the job title wasn't Account Manager or Senior Account Manager, they weren't interested.

Now, there is usually flexibility with clients.  They will consider individuals and their specific experience and as the majority of agencies are independent (in the North), they are less constrained by job title and salary bandings - it's up to you to prove you are 'worth it'.   Whilst many clients do continue to look at 'how many years experience', they appreciate there are anomalies and that whilst most employees will take 3-4 years to get to solid Account Manager level, others may get there a bit quicker (or a little later).

There are two real points to this ramble.  The first is that there are differences between salaries in London and everywhere else, particularly the North.  Remember that the cost of living is much cheaper up here, and that's usually the key driver for relocation - that and being close to families and friends.  So, chances are, if you are relocating North, you are going to need to take a drop in salary.  It's likely that even with a drop in salary, you'll still come out on top.  It's important to remember what your primary reason for moving is and that as always, some compromise is going to need to be made.

When I ask about salary expectations, 95% of candidates tell me that 'I'm just due a pay rise to X so I'm actually looking for Y'.  We all know that we are much more likely to get a pay rise when we move jobs (probably 85% of people who are looking for a new job are doing so purely for financial reasons).  I also think that 95% of us believe we're underpaid.  So I understand why people are looking for the best possible salary.  However, to use the R word again, we've all got to be realistic.

My second point is that you need to be absolutely confident in your abilities if you are demanding an above average salary.  Often when employees negotiate hard, this can pre-empt a downfall when the expectation of the employer is then much greater and if the employee doesn't come up to scratch, it leads to a pretty swift exit.  Typically an Account Executive will have up to 18 months agency experience, a Senior Account Executive is the middle ground before Account Manager.  It's all subjective depending on employers but it's not so much about the 'years'.  At Account Manager level, the expectation is that you'll have the commercial skills to grow and develop your clients, you'll be proactively managing those relationships, you'll be financially responsible for revenue and budgets. You'll be confident working with senior clients who can often be very challenging.  Where previously you've been supported by an Account Director or Senior Account Manager, the expectation is that you'll then be required to do much more autonomously.  It's not as much about internal campaign management and being great at 'doing' but starting to be more strategically focused and actually 'consulting' with your clients about their activity.  I asked the candidate to have a think about this.  In the North, a salary of £25k plus is an Account Manager salary and a lot of the skills listed above, come with time.  Only after a couple of years will you have experienced the variety of campaigns and challenges that come with agency life.  Some agencies will expose you to a lot, some won't and for that reason, clients do move their goalposts when recruiting BUT you need to be able to prove your worth.  Employers will also want to ensure that individuals doing the same role are being rewarded similarly so you will have to go above and beyond to demonstrate why you deserve more.

I don't know how things will pan out for this particular candidate.  I'm seeing an increasing number of 'potential relocators' staying put in London.  Often, they can't reconcile the 'lower salary' even though it's unlikely to be lower in real terms.  I often recommend that candidates take a pragmatic approach and we can negotiate with clients to review salaries and titles at 6 months.  Clients can take advantage of a lower hiring fee and employees have time to settle, adjust and show what they are capable of.

It takes time to build a relationship and trust.  Hopefully individuals can see that I'm not out to sell them off as cheaply as I can.  I know there are some rubbish recruiters out there who don't have any standards so I always advise candidates to talk to several, and then work with a select few who you feel you do want to work with and who will find you the best opportunities and look after your best interests.  It's your choice!

30 Sep 2016

Work hard and be nice to people...

In my line of work, I get to see an awful lot of offices and work-spaces.  It's quite eye opening in many ways and increasingly, I'm seeing lots of 'maxims' and 'mantras' blown up into posters which adorn the walls of offices to exhort people to 'Keep calm & whatever'  or that 'Nice guys finish last', 'Failure is not an option' and a personal favourite 'Don't Quit'.  I'm never sure really if these are supposed to be motivational and life affirming or just to occupy wall-space.  It's similar to the ongoing battering on social media of 'inspirational quotes' which I'm seeing increasingly regularly on various feeds.  In fact, I'll digress a little here because I also saw a research piece recently where a Canadian group of scientists had completed a project 'on the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bull****'. (http://ow.ly/ZHsL304IlXv).  The study found that those who are receptive to these messages are less intelligent, less reflective and more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, the paranormal and alternative medicine'.  Anyway, each to their own.  I was with a client this week through and on their wall was a huge poster with 'Work hard and be nice to people'.  This has resonated with me all week and I think that if you're going to have a mantra, this is probably the best of them all.

In the world of work, just as you can't choose your family, you can't choose your workmates.  But it's a small world.  The main Northern centres for advertising are Manchester and Leeds and they are relatively small cities.  Whilst all recruitment is theoretically confidential, we are reliant on individuals within businesses using discretion when dealing with CVs.  Sadly, it's not always the case and this week, we had a case of a client declining to see a candidate - who on paper was perfect for the role.  When I enquired as to why it was a no, I was told that someone in the team had previously worked for that person and been told they were a lazy so and so who wasn't a team player.  

Another example.  Ran a great new opportunity for a role by three candidates.  Lovely agency, great client roster. Each candidate declined, having heard on the jungle drums that the most senior person on the account was 'difficult' to work with and 'made people cry'.

The Jungle Drums are heard far and wide. Often, it's not even a direct connection but it can be 'a friend of a friend' or just plain old chinese whispers.  Most of the time, I'll advise individuals to go along and make their own mind up. Sometimes reputations are justified, sometimes they are not.  But really, without being made up of meaningless words strung together for some kind of inspirational appeal, I think 'Work hard and be nice to people' is simple, to the point and we'd all be mindful to heed this advice in an increasingly small world.

To see the very opposite - demotivational work posters, take a look at http://ow.ly/65Wg304InzL

9 Aug 2016

That Salary Question....

It's an (anecdotal) fact that 90% of us think we're underpaid. Clearly, I've not got any proper stats to back this up but nine times out of ten, that's the first thing that candidates say when I ask them what their salary expectation is.

Conversations often sound something like this:

Candidate 1: 'Well I'm due a pay rise next month, I've not had one for over 2 years so I'm looking for £30k'.
Me: 'What is your actual salary now'?
Candidate 1: Fudges a bit talking about their non existent bonus and 'benefits'
Me:  'What is your actual salary now'?
Candidate 1: '£20k'
Me:  'That's quite a rise....'
Candidate 1: 'Well, I should be on £25k now and therefore if I was, I'd be looking for another £5k to make it worth my while to move'.

Candidate 2:  'I'm fed up, I've been an Account Executive for 18 months. I earn £19k and my friend at AGENCY Z  has exactly the same experience as me and he is on £24k'
Me: 'So we're going to be looking for Senior Account Executive roles circa £24k then'
Candidate 2: Well no, his job title is Account Manager so I want to be that too.
Me: 'So with 18 months experience, we're looking for Account Manager jobs at £24k'.  That's a big ask....and so on.

I'm absolutely committed to securing my candidates the right salary for them.  I often ask candidates to trust me on this. Ultimately, I'm paid according to their salary so it's in my interest to do so. However, I've also got a responsibility to them to advise them on what is realistic and what is attainable. I've also got a responsibility to clients to meet their requirements and to provide them with CVs for people who can do the job within the salary boundaries that they are offering.

There isn't really a science when it comes to salaries. They are so subjective.  The old adage is true that you are worth whatever an employer will pay for you.  Yes there are salary brackets that for the most part provide the basis for the majority of roles in this sector but there are occasionally situations where salaries come out of these brackets.  In smaller agencies, progression can often be quicker, largely because an MD, may pay slightly above the average and give inflated job titles to retain staff. In fairness, employees of smaller agencies tend to work multiple roles and wear many different hats too whereas in a larger agency, employees often get to be very skilled in a very small range of campaigns.  In the larger agencies, budgets tend to be fixed with very little fluidity whereas in the smaller agencies, there are not such rigid salary boundaries (assuming business is good!).

Peer pressure is a big contributor to this too.  Often candidates are aware that their friends who are lawyers, doctors, consultants etc are earning more than them (marketing & advertising is certainly not in the top 10 of high salary potential roles).  But that's not a justifiable reason to expect your next employer to pay you more.

Interestingly whilst candidates are able to have this sort of conversation with me, it's a different matter when it comes to interviews.  I recently had a candidate who was currently earning £32k and wanted to secure £40k in their next move.  I could only offer my honest opinion.  That I thought it was unlikely that the client would offer her that much. That was the top end of their budget but they'd need to see the skills and ability to justify that salary.    I had advised the candidate that if asked in the interview what her salary was, to respond with 'I'm looking for £40k'.  I'd said that if the client heard the £32k, they'd mentally be unable to justify why someone was worth another £8k.  So.  post  interview, I asked the candidate if they'd asked the salary question.  When it came to it, she'd been unable to lie, dodge or fudge the answer and had said she was on £32k.  Her worry was that if she got the job, they'd know from her P45 that she had lied and that could cause problems.  In over 10 years of recruitment, I've never known this to happen but it does make candidates worry and it proves that ultimately we're a pretty honest bunch.

In the end, the client did offer. They offered £36k and a review at 6 and then 12 months to get the candidate up to that £40k with achievement of certain KPIs.  On reflection, the candidate appreciated that they were unlikely to secure the £40k elsewhere and that this was a fair offer with an achievable goal.

If the candidate had answered £36k to the salary question, do I think they'd have offered £40k? Possibly.  When it comes down to it, it depends how much you can look someone in the eye and respond to that question. Don't witter or waffle, just state the number.

Something that does concern me is that where a candidate asks for a significant jump like this, they are setting themselves up for a fall. Whilst some clients will say, OK, I'll give you what you want, they are also saying, but you're going to have to earn it.  Often, candidates are unprepared for this and then it comes as a bit of a shock when the going gets tough.  This is most common where a candidate is trying to make the transition from Account Manager to Senior Account Manager or Senior Account Manager to Account Director and the actual roles in themselves do require more experience and skill - and therefore they command a higher salary.  So it's worth bearing that in mind too when coming up with the number that you think you are worth.

On a final note.  Salary is always going to be linked to experience and skills.  It's subjective again because it depends on the company, the sector, the clients etc.  Clients will usually pay most for candidates who have stayed for a decent time in their previous roles, who are able to articulate well at interview their experiences and to justify why that potential employer should be interested in them.  The indefinable qualities of 'chemistry' and 'fit' as yet cannot be measured but that's the key determinant in my opinion when it comes to salary - a client will always feel justified in offering a bit more for someone with the right 'fit'.  Often you've got to meet a few potential employers for this to work both ways - a bit like kissing a few frogs until you find your Prince.  So it's worth persevering!

25 Jul 2016

Hedging your bets...

In an ideal world, it would be great for offers to come in thick and fast and at the same time, thus allowing you options and choice when making a decision as to whether a particular job is the right one for you.  Whilst this does sometimes happen, it’s largely unpredictable and all you can do is make your decision based on whatever offer or offers you have at the time.  It is often the case that you’ll receive an offer from one company whilst still waiting for a second interview the following week and whilst it seems entirely reasonable to you and I to hold offer 1 whilst you wait to see how interview 2 goes, clients can often demonstrate a lack of patience in such situations.  I recently had an offer for a senior level role in an agency and it reminded me how important communication is in such situations. 

Agency A made an offer to the candidate, put the offer in writing and expectantly waited for a response.  What we had was silence...I think in most aspects of communication, silence is never good.  Clients need to hear something – even if it is ‘I need some time to make a decision’.  Communication allows the client to try to understand if there is anything they can do to expediate that decision and if not, they need to look at their other options too.  From the candidate perspective, it transpired that they were waiting for Agency B to decide if they were going to make an offer.  One didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that if Agency B offered a role, the candidate would be turning down Agency A.  A  series of emailed and texted excuses ensued and my client (Agency A), understandably became quite frustrated.  The candidate, hedging their bets was using them as back up and Agency A didn’t want to be considered a back up option.  They rescinded the offer.  Agency B then didn’t offer the candidate a role and the candidate then was left with no options on the table. Given the number of senior roles in the region, it’s likely that there will be a bit of a wait until we see more roles at that level.   The candidate tried to crawl back to Agency A but they’d filled the role with their own second choice, someone who accepted it without any delay!

If you genuinely don’t think an offer is for you.  Turn it down. Companies can take it, they wouldn’t want someone who isn’t committed to join them.  If you are genuinely undecided, then be honest but there are degrees of honesty....you don’t want to be so honest that the company gets so concerned that they change their mind about wanting you.  However, if you do want to go to another scheduled interview and then make a decision, you should probably tell them.  It’s a gamble that they won’t get the hump, but you can pitch it in such a way that you don’t want to be unprofessional and let the other company down and that as it is such an important move, you want to be sure that you have covered all options.  You should also make the other company aware of your situation so that potentially, they can move the interview forward and make them aware that they need to make a decision swiftly – they should be able to tell you pretty quickly if it’s a clear no!

Be absolutely clear about whether there is anything the company need to do – if you are holding out for more money, try to establish if this is their full and final offer.  Clients do tend to like transparency here rather than having to second guess if money is the primary motivator.  Equally they don’t like to be held to ransom so it’s important to manage this delicately.  They will want to know if there is anything they can do to turn your indecision into a yes, so do think about it and communicate any areas which are causing you doubt.

Clients particularly don’t like to be kept waiting is if they have another person to offer the role to if it is declined.  In such a situation you will have to make a decision.  Whilst I mostly advocate the ‘look after number one’, it’s not very nice to accept a role, knowing that you may in a weeks time be declining it.  It’s not a nice conversation to have and you need to know that you are in all likelihood, burning your bridges with that company. And in the regions, it’s a small world and people do remember such things.  Having said that, it’s not illegal or against any particular rules, it’s just not very gentlemanly.

If you are scrupulously honest, talk to the client and tell them your situation. Ask them for a deadline and commit to making a decision by then.  They might demand an immediate response but it is more likely that they will be prepared to wait – if you are truly the right person for them.  However, don’t expect any company to wait indefinitely. 

If you are working with a recruiter as the intermediary, please keep the lines of communication open. If it is a recruiter you trust, they’ll be objective and give you advice entirely dependent upon the context of this particular situation.  Silence is never good and at times like this, you need to be talking, not texting and not emailing.

I suppose there is a caveat that if you think your recruiter is a shark, is not giving you good advice and is just out for themselves, then you should talk directly to the client (whilst making the recruiter aware of this).  At this point, you’ll probably earn some respect for being direct and upfront so it is worth considering. (However...I'm not a shark so if I'm your recruiter, talk to me!).

How you handle this whole area is very subjective and it’s important to think about it in context of the particular companies in question.  I’m afraid there isn’t a black and white do’s and don’t list of how you go about it!  You’ll need to use common sense and remember, if you do end up working there, you don’t want your employer resenting you for taking your time and making them feel like second best.  If you have communicated throughout, you’re much less likely to get anyone’s back up.

28 Jun 2016

CV Honesty...

My parents drilled into me during my early years that honesty was always the best policy.  As I’ve got older, I’ve generally felt quite comfortable with ‘grey areas’ and justification of the odd ‘white lie’ – but not with hugely serious subjects or in areas where there might be ‘consequences’.  Your CV is something where I would go with my parent’s view that there isn’t really any room for ‘grey’ and typically, if you are not squeaky clean, you run the risk of being caught out – and of those consequences coming out to haunt you.

In recent weeks, we’ve had a couple of situations with candidates who have left a new role after a relatively short period of time.  In the first situation, the candidate had spent just 4 weeks in the new role and upon finding their contract terminated, fortunately for themselves, secured a new role immediately.  However, they hadn’t disclosed the fact that they’d spent a month somewhere else and thought (correctly) that it would open a can of worms.  However, it’s a bigger can of worms that gets opened if your new employer finds out that you didn’t disclose it – and that taints their opinion of you – even if, there is an acceptable reason. 

Another candidate, found himself in the MD’s office 6 months into his new role.  Sadly, after 6 months, the business had decided they didn’t need someone at this level . He hadn’t wanted to find himself in that situation, having been made redundant from his previous role.  This was (meant to be) a permanent position and he was worried that on his CV, a 6 month stint following a redundancy, might not show him in his best light.  He came to an agreement with the MD to say that the position had been a 6 month fixed term contract and the MD was happy to provide him with a reference which he took with him when he left.  This candidate was pretty quick thinking and included the (glowing) reference on his CV as an appendix – he found himself a new position and is now hopefully settled for the medium to long term.

A third candidate, had a good probationary period but found things considerably tougher after a couple of other new employees joined the business. There were a few confrontational discussions and the MD then felt that the candidate wasn’t the right fit for the business (obviously I have to gloss over the details due to client and candidate confidentiality...).  But the candidate didn’t want to include the 5 months on her CV.  I countered this by saying that 5 months of nothing on the CV would come across less well – so with a previously strong work history and good references from previous employers, the candidate would have less issues in justifying a short stint at the agency. 

Everyone, at some point in their career has a ‘hiccup’.  It could be that you accepted the wrong role, your new employer decided you weren’t the right one for the job or it could be that they lost a client and sadly you then found yourself out on the job market again.  As long as you keep explanations, concise, to the point and in a positive light, most potential employers will be pragmatic and accept that these things happen but it doesn’t mean you’re unemployable.  My advice, if you have had a hiccup and you find yourself having a difficult conversation having not been in a role for very long is to try to secure a reference there and then.  This avoids any issues down the line and as long as you’re not being fired for misconduct (fortunately very rare), most bosses are not inclined to scupper your chances of another new role.

 What a lot of people forget is that this industry is a small one and paths do cross in the most unexpected places.  For that reason, I’d always give an honest account of your work history on your CV and to ensure you can counter any challenges and questions during the interview process.

Clearly these examples are where candidates have actually been working in a business and then left but there are other areas where people embellish their CVs with improved A levels, moved themselves up a degree class, skipped a year here and there – these things can all be checked – and yes, there are clients who occasionally ask for degree certificates so do be careful.

More amusingly is where candidates highlight interests and hobbies on their CV which they think might impress other people, or they wish they did....again, exercise caution here.  Fluency in foreign languages is very easy to be caught out on and the same is true if you state that you love nothing more than a night in reading Chaucer (you’d be surprised).

12 May 2016

Staying objective!

I’ve  had a few situations recently when candidates have been a bit ‘lukewarm’ when I’ve run certain agencies by them.   Whilst over the years, there have always been some agencies who have reputations for one thing or another, I’ve always felt there are horses for courses and there is somewhere for everyone.  I generally know which agencies are good for juniors where they’ll have to work hard but they can also play hard, I know which agencies have a good work-life balance, which are best for working mums and which are good when you’ve had enough of climbing the slippery career ladder and you just want to do a good job with no game playing.
So I’m not sure if it’s a bit reflective of a new generation coming through or something else.  Several candidates have recently  declined opportunities because they’ve; ‘had a friend who didn’t enjoy it there’, ‘heard it has a revolving door’,  ‘heard that it’s all churn and no creative’, ‘heard the boss is a bitch’, ‘heard they don’t leave before 10 at night on a regular basis’, ‘heard the boss is a randy old goat’, ‘heard if you don’t play football, you won’t get in’,  ‘heard it’s like the Hollyoaks set’, ‘heard they all do drugs’, ‘heard there is a dog’ (really).  I could go on.    I’ve been doing this job for over 10 years and I’d like to think I’m an ethical recruiter – if I truly thought that any client was a dreadful/unsafe place to work, I wouldn’t be dealing with that agency and they’d in turn be unlikely to see the value in paying someone like to me find them quality staff.

Rivalry between agencies over the years has been intense.  There are a lot of independent agencies in the North and people have moved around, split up, started new offshoots and with all of that comes rivalry, competition and a certain amount of gossip and rumour that can often result in Chinese whispers and plain untruths in the open market.  In a couple of the bigger agencies, I think there is active gossip which is intended to keep employees loyal – several candidates will say ‘I’ll go anywhere but there’.  Creative work of rival agencies is passed off as weak or with an insubstantial client roster – all of this can be quite powerful in altering the perceptions of a candidate as to where they would like to work.

Often when I’ve asked candidates who are negative about previous employers the reasons for their negativity, my feelings can be mixed. Often I can find myself siding with the client and feeling that perhaps the employee had unrealistic expectations or simply they weren’t very good at their job or had oversold themselves into too senior a role and it then became clear they weren’t up to the challenge. The natural reaction of any individual is a defensive strategy and they wouldn’t look to themselves to say perhaps it just hadn’t been the right environment for them at that stage in their lives.  Similarly, I can sometimes see exactly where a candidate is coming from – perhaps their boss is a bit too straight talking or blunt – but what wasn’t right for them, might be absolutely fine for someone else.  So in a long winded way, I’m saying each to their own.  Just because an agency wasn’t right for someone else, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not right for you.  Wouldn’t it be worth checking it out for yourself?

I always recommend that if there is an available role or opportunity in an agency where your skill-set matches that on demand and that it’s geographically do-able, on the right salary scale and on clients/campaigns you would like to work on then it’s worth going along for a chat and making your own mind up.  Going for a first interview is not selling your soul, you are under no obligation to sign up to anything. It’s a chance for you to find out about the company, the role and for the client to see if you’re the right fit for them.  Is there chemistry there?  What’s your gut feel?

I’ve also met most of my clients. I always ask for a face to face meeting when I take on a new client and I get a feel for myself as to the environment, the type of person who works there etc and then do my best to match make to ensure that the ‘fit’ is as close as possible.    Then, if you’re selected for an interview, that is the opportunity to sniff each other out and to go from there.    Whilst some companies do have ‘reputations’, it’s important to stay objective and not to rule anything out on what is essentially just hearsay.

14 Apr 2016

Remote working - not all it's cracked up to be?

When I sit down with a candidate for the first time and I ask them to describe their perfect role, it is increasingly common that remote working/working from home will be high on the wishlist.  Along with unlimited holidays, contributory pensions and free gym membership, this desire does seem to be on the up and the benefits of a work laptop and free fruit in the office just don’t cut it anymore.

When I launched PMP just over 7 years ago,  I knew I didn’t want to build an Empire, had no desire to be the next Michael Page (shudders...) and actually the idea of working from home for most of the time was quite appealing.  I’d moved to the countryside, had done 10 years in Manchester and was ready to embrace remote working.  I’m very lucky as it happens. Recruitment is an industry where you need a computer, a database, the internet and a phone (brain,  personable manner, capacity for hard work & persistence, luck, modesty etc  are all pre-requisites too) my point being that you don’t actually physically need to be in an office, particularly if you’re a one woman recruitment supremo

In a typical week, I’ll spend one or possibly two days in Manchester and a day in Leeds. On these days, I’ll meet candidates and clients and work out of coffee shops, hotel foyers, art galleries and theatres.  If you ever need a recommendation for the best wifi spots or public toilets in these cities, then I’m your woman.  I’m always on hand to meet a candidate at a venue of their choice which can often take me to pastures new (e.g. Wetherspoons in Piccadilly was particularly memorable....was the only place the candidate could be sure no-one would see them).    The rest of the time, I work from home.  I’m often at my desk at 0600 and feel like I’ve done a full day of work by 0900 but that often means I can go and ride my bike for an hour or so during the day so I avoid working bonkers hours.  I have an unhealthy knowledge of the daytime TV schedule and often time indoor bike sessions with A place in the Sun whilst I fantasise about even more remote working opportunities....

 I suppose that all sounds great.  Until you’ve been doing it for 7 years. For me personally the benefits of my PMP lifestyle far outweigh the negatives.  But the key negative is a big one and shouldn’t be ignored.  The cut and thrust of office life, the banter, even the politics – after a while, you miss it.  I live vicariously through the office life of my husband and overshare with candidates when I’m chatting to them on the phone.  I talk to the wall and I have an imaginary dog  (Thomas).  People who work from home are always the most commonly found on Social Media and it’s a real distraction, as is the Daily Mail Online and the sidebar of shame.   In a real office, you’re forced to talk to real people, to communicate regularly.  You learn how to delegate, how to compromise and you really do benefit from that.    I always thought I wouldn’t miss those aspects of office life but after a few years, you really do.   

In all the coffee shops, hotel foyers etc, I’m surrounded by other ‘home workers’.  People perhaps who don’t want to work in an office but don’t want to work from home either.  For four years (really!) in the Cafe Nero on Portland Street in Manchester, I sat next to the same guy every Wednesday morning, we’d make eye contact as we opened our respective laptops and give a small shrug.  One day we got chatting, it turned out he was a freelance web developer who made his one coffee last all morning so he got out of the house. I ended up finding him a job – a permanent one, in an office and now I don’t see him anymore.

So, to return to my original point.  Remote working is often requested but in the majority of agencies, particularly for client services staff and Creatives, it’s just not appropriate.  Whilst on the one hand, clients require regular contact, which can be done from anywhere, it’s the internal activity, brainstorming, working with Creatives, reviewing a brief, pulling a pitch together – all these things are best done working in a team, together.  I think the best balance to hope for is potentially one day a month of remote working which allows you to miss out the commute for a day, to be in for deliveries and to catch up on emails.  But I bet for a lot of people, that if they tried it all day, every day for more than 3 months, you’d have to start drawing up your pros and cons list.

I think it’s also necessary to ask yourself really how disciplined you are too.  I know several recruiters who have a similar business model to mine and they have made the point of renting office space – it gets them out of the house, gives them a start time and an end time to the working day and forces them to get dressed.  I don’t have a problem with any of that, if anything, I work harder and longer hours than ever, but they are flexible hours.    In recruitment, it can work. I’m not sure in a creative agency environment that it can.

Most of my agency clients would only consider any level of remote working after an employee has earned their trust that the job could be efficiently and effectively performed out of the office.  If you can present a justified case to your employer and ask perhaps for a trial period to test out perhaps one day a week over a three month period, that should allow you – and them, to see if it is feasible in the long term.  I also advise caution when asking for a 4 day week... I’ve got a lot of anecdotal evidence from candidates that a 4 day week equates to  4 days in the office, one day from home – all clients ask that you’re available by phone and email on your home day and often individuals feel short changed as they are paid a day less but they don’t actually have a day off.  Just something to consider...

But do consider the pros and cons carefully.  The loss of personal contact on a daily basis is something that is potentially damaging to mental health so weigh everything up in your own personal equation and quest for work life balance and then make a pitch to your employer.  

I might eventually get a real dog.

31 Mar 2016

Rescheduling Interviews...

I'm sure I've said it before that Recruitment is not Rocket Science.  That's not to say that it's easy or that anyone can do it - there are certain character traits that make good recruiters and generally they are the same skills that make a good account handler in an agency.  Often, much of the time, the work isn't technically hard, but you do need to be super organised and be able to spin a zillion plates at the same time.  Diplomacy is essential as is the ability to persuade and manage expectations of your clients (or in my case, candidates too...).  In fact, the 'hardest' part of my job is actually the interview scheduling.  This might be a bit of a surprise given that I've got to find candidates, build relationships with them, manage relationships with clients, match the clients with the right candidates etc etc.  You'd think that once you get to the point of scheduling an interview, you're on the last lap. However, that's typically where the fun begins.

In fairness, the speed of interview scheduling is much quicker than in the old days.  Email and texts make ongoing communication throughout the day possible and I can advise a candidate that clients are wanting to schedule a meeting.  Generally, clients are happy to try and be as flexible as possible and to make interviews either early in the morning or later in the evening.  Most clients have been a candidate at some point and they understand it's difficult to take time out during the day or to lose holiday.  Once a date is in the diary, I do my best to keep it there and to minimise any changes.  However, this is outside my control and I don't know if it's the time of year or there is something in the water but at the moment a high proportion of interviews are being re-scheduled - something that is essentially an administrative headache - not difficult, not intellectually demanding but it does require diplomatic skills and as clients are busy people, diary management is essential for them too.

Straightforward interview rescheduling is not a problem - a client meeting has come up or your boss has decided that they need you to be in the office.  I'm happy to be the go-between and to ensure that the client doesn't lose interest and find another date and time ASAP.  What is more of an issue is multiple re-scheduling.  I've recently had a couple of senior level roles where we've been at third and final stage of interview with multiple reschedule requests.  After the third attempt to reschedule, the client lost patience with one candidate and decided to offer the job to another.  They decided that even if the candidate presented a stronger brief to them, they were too high maintenance and the employer is a Gentleman who felt it was disrespectful to them as a business and to the whole process.  With the other example, after I questioned the candidate, it turned out they were stalling to wait for another offer to (hopefully) land.  So we pulled the candidate from the process.  The other offer didn't transpire and now they're back to square one.

I think there are two messages I wanted to communicate.  One is that really, you should only be interviewing for jobs that you really want.  If you are rescheduling interviews because you're either just not that bothered about going to it or you are waiting to hear from another preferred role - you probably shouldn't be interviewing for that job.  I do ask candidates to be honest and transparent with me - I'd never apply pressure to encourage someone to go to an interview - if you don't want the job, it shows and you're just wasting your own time as much as the employer (and recruiter...).

The second message is that if you do need to reschedule an interview, it really helps to put a phone call into the equation.  It's a particular no to texting (reminder to use the medium that is most appropriate for the message).  By all means leave a message and follow up with an email.  But make sure that you are clear about your reasons for rescheduling and try to convey your continued interest in the role.  Most clients are happy to reschedule once, but the warning bells start to go off with a second or multiple changes.  If that's you, question yourself as to how much you want the job.  If you're not enthused by it, you shouldn't be interviewing for it.

The worst thing to do is a 'no show'.  That's pretty much game over in 99% of cases.  At least if you have asked to reschedule, there is a chance that you are still able to be considered for the role.   Whilst 'no show' might feel like being easier than having a difficult conversation, don't forget what a small world the agency and marketing world is in the North, this is the sort of thing that is remembered....

15 Feb 2016

Confidentiality and Reputation Management...

For most of us, starting a search for a new job can be a daunting task.  It can take a lot of time and effort and whilst the hope is that it will all be worth it in order to develop our careers, earn more money and enjoy greater job satisfaction (or whatever other criteria you have!).  For many candidates, the subject of confidentiality is an added concern.  This post comes at confidentiality from two angles. 

The first angle is all about discretion.  The majority of my clients don’t like it when their staff leave – it causes them many headaches, from the increased cost in replacing a valued employee to the loss of client continuity and effect on the internal teams.  They particularly don’t like it, when they’re aware of an employee’s job hunt.  We all know that it goes on – although there is another blog in ‘how to keep your staff happy so they don’t leave’.  However, if you are looking to leave your job there are some absolute criteria that you should adhere to.

Don’t conduct your job hunt on company time.  I’m always shocked when I see a candidate use their work email on their CV.  In this day and age, it’s so easy to have personal email, pretty much all of us have smart phones. I can’t see any reasonable argument for using a work email.  Whilst most employers have a policy on use of email in the workplace, I’m pretty sure that using it to find a new job is verboten.  Equally important is not to be checking out competitor websites on your work machine...Be discreet when attending interviews. Most employers will try to accommodate out of hours interviews but if that’s not possible, don’t overdo the number of doctor and dentist ‘appointments’ – it is still important to respect your existing employer or you might find that you’re out of a job anyway.  I shouldn’t need to say this one but don’t advertise the fact that you’re job-hunting on social media – unless of course you are available immediately/not in a role.

If you’re working with a recruiter, make them aware how important it is that your search is as confidential as possible.  It can never be absolutely guaranteed – after all, you are putting yourself on the job market and potential employers need to know your current employer and your name too.  However, most employers are sympathetic to this and recruiters can reinforce the message too.  If applying directly to companies, it is worth stating that you would be grateful for confidentiality, particularly in a small market-place.

Which leads me to the second angle.  The marketing agency market-place in the North is small.  The individual cities of Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool are all small pots of talent with a finite number of employers for candidates to choose from.  These markets are incestuous and what I can’t do as a recruiter, is prevent employers from ‘asking around’ – some things are outside my control.  For the most part, most of my clients are very professional and decent people, they’re looking to minimise any risk in employing new staff and one of the ways they do that is to ask friends and colleagues if they’d recommend a particular person if that CV has landed on their desk.  Typically they’re not doing it in a vengeful fashion but let’s say for example that the MD of one business is close friends with the MD of another business and a candidate’s CV appears in front of MD 1, he may well make MD2 aware that one of his number is hunting for a new job.  What is increasingly happening though is that it’s going on within the ‘ranks’.  Recently, one of my Account Managers was rejected for a role because the recruiting Account Director had previously worked with a Designer who had worked with the Account Manager.  After a couple of exchanges, it transpired that the Designer didn’t really ‘rate’ the Account Manager and so the Account Director didn’t even interview the candidate.  I did argue the point that the candidate was well qualified for the role and surely deserved the opportunity to interview, but no.  Equally there are people in the business whose reputations do go before them and this can be very damaging during the job hunt process.  I’ve had another recent example of a very senior individual who didn’t have a great reputation (candidates actually left the agency because of this person).  Then when the senior individual came to look for a new role....well, it wasn’t easy and they have since moved to another region.

So the point here is that in a small market-place, it’s important to not make too many enemies.  It’s a small world and whilst we can’t go through our lives trying to be everyone’s best buddy, we should be aware that a poor reputation can harm our job prospects.  Do your job well and respect your colleagues.  Longevity in roles is the one thing that will counter any negative reputation comments (you’re clearly good at your job and can manage relationships if you’ve been in a role for over 2 years).  If you’ve been a job hopper, the combination of any negative feedback together with a high number of jobs can be disastrous.

Of course, it can go the other way too!  Glowing feedback from previous friends and colleagues in the industry can fast-track an individual through the recruitment process.  That’s worth remembering too...

22 Jan 2016

How to decline a job offer...

It’s January – New Year, New Career and all that.  Busiest time in the recruitment calendar.  All true.  However, it has been a funny old month with three candidates declining offers last week.  It is always an interesting study in human behaviour to see how individuals communicate (or not) when they have received a job offer.  I tend to reduce this to four typical reactions from candidates:

1.  Hurrah! It’s the job of my dreams.  When do they want me to start. Of course I accept!
2.  Hurrah!  That’s great news.  However, I’d now like an extra £5k please.
3.  (cautiously), of course I am pleased, I’d like a week to think about it
4.  Silence. (usually a lack of response via email).  A candidate who until now has responded within seconds to email or text communications, goes off grid.

OK. So I’ve been doing this job for a long time now. I’ve been a client and I’ve been a candidate too.  I know that in the wonderful world of recruitment, sometimes candidates accept job offers and occasionally they don’t.  There may be a myriad of reasons why a candidate turns down an offer but the point of this post is really to iterate the importance of keeping the lines of communication open throughout the process. 

The psychology of the client is important as much as the candidate.  I think it’s important to remember this when dealing with the post offer process.  The client will have made an offer wanting the candidate to accept it.  If there is any ‘wobbling’ after an offer, it’s going to start the warning sirens.  That can occasionally result in a hasty withdrawl of an offer so it is definitely worth considering how to communicate post offer. 

Clearly, profile 1 doesn’t really require any consideration.  We’re all happy.  However, I’ll start with point 4 and work backwards:

Can I have a week to think about the offer...
Client calls with the offer. It’s the offer we were anticipating.  The right money, the right holidays, a reasonable clutch of benefits.  I contact the candidate and inform them of the offer.  Ideally we’re hoping for response 1, however,  I know it is never guaranteed.  Recruiters have a sixth sense for anticipating tricky offer situations so we’re usually prepared for it.   I will generally ask clients to put the offer in writing first and this will provide ‘thinking time’ for the candidate and allow them to check the details of the offer.  All entirely reasonable.  However, the minute that a candidate asks for ‘time’, it sets of warning signals in both the recruiter and the client.   Usually it will mean that the candidate has other interviews in the mix or they have cold feet.   

The client and the candidate have both invested time and effort into the recruitment process. Everyone is aware that there is never a guarantee of an offer and post offer, no guarantee of acceptance.  If you are interviewing elsewhere, it’s important to be honest with the recruiter so that we can in turn, communicate with the client.    If a client feels that the candidate is not engaged or interested, they will simply withdraw the offer.  After all, they want the candidate to really want to work for them (and no-one else).    The most honest thing to do if you are interviewing elsewhere – say for example you receive an offer on Monday from Company A and on Wednesday you are due to meet Company B for a second stage interview, is to tell your recruiter this and to ask them to see if the client is prepared to wait for a decision until the end of the week.  Most recruiters are used to diplomatically asking clients to see if they’ll wait for a decision and the will quickly establish whether the client will wait (in which case they will usually put a deadline on the offer acceptance)  or if they’re simply not prepared to wait, potentially losing their back-up candidate in the process and withdraw the offer.

The other common occurrence at this point, is the counter offer from an existing employer.  In the current market, we are seeing 70% of candidates receive a counter offer from their current employer when they hand in their notice.  So I ask my candidates quite early in their job hunting process to be prepared for this and to think about their reasons for looking for a new role.   80% of candidates who stay with their current employer, are back on the market within 6-8 months which I always think is a very high statistic.  Ultimately at the point of counter offer, the existing employer will say a lot of things to retain the employee (much cheaper than hiring a replacement and easier to have continuity with clients and internal stakeholders – sorry to sound so cynical!).  It is very interesting how many candidates who have come to me, almost at the end of their tether (I haven’t had a rise for 3 years, they keep promising me Account Manager title, the hours are dreadful, the work is the same day in, day out etc) who then with a bit of (heavy handed) persuasion, will then stick it out.  However, as I say, stick it out for another 6-12 months.   I quite understand that sometimes, after interviewing elsewhere, it can be evident that the grass isn’t necessarily greener elsewhere and for personal reasons, it’s the right thing to do to stay.  But, if your employer says, you’ll be an Account Manager in 3 months and we’ll then give you that raise, it should probably set off some warning signals to you too.  It’s important to review your original criteria for why you were looking for a new role and to assess whether now that you are in possession of a viable alternative (or alternatives) to see whether it is the right move or to sit tight.

Candidate goes AWOL at point of offer
So.  The other reaction from a candidate at the point of offer is silence.  This one is the most troubling as it makes everyone look a bit rubbish!  The client will (rightly) become frustrated with both the candidate (I thought they were keen) and the recruiter (isn’t this your job to be the go-between?).  I’m never quite sure why people go quiet.  I’m not an ogre, I can take no, it’s OK!  However, the Northern market is a small one and I think generally, it’s a good modus operandi never to fall out with anyone.  If you’ve interviewed to the point of an offer, and declined with good reason, that’s fine – everyone will understand that you had options and choices to make and as it happens, it’s not the right decision for you to accept.    However, going awol and not responding to texts and emails just isn’t great.   Keep the lines of communication open, tell the recruiter what your concerns are and hopefully, there will be resolution.  Most recruiters will work late into the evenings and accept calls at any time of day.  If you have any concerns, talk to them.  Silence sends negative signals to everyone involved.

Candidate who moves the financial goalposts at offer...
I’d like to briefly give a note on the second profile.  ‘The moving goalposter.’  Whilst I do agree that the one time you can properly negotiate on your salary is at the point of a job offer  - it is not the time to present your potential future employer with any surprises. Now,  a good recruiter will, at the point when you first spoke to them , have established your salary expectation and have given you a good idea as to whether this is realistic (subject to the kind of roles you are approaching, the level, the discipline etc).  Always bear in mind that a recruiter is going to try to secure you the best salary possible – (without sounding like a shark), however, they are also working within the realms of what is realistic and achievable.  If you are keen to negotiate from the original offer, ask the recruiter for advice – is this a client who typically will negotiate or not – some do actually get genuinely offended and say it’s not the time for Monty Python style haggling.  Some clients can be impressed by how potential employees come to the negotiating table but it can be a gamble so do take advice.

Another point worth mentioning is that often clients will ‘package up’ an offer.  I’m never 100% sure why this is but there are some agencies who I work with who will say the offer is £30k – and the candidate says ‘great, that’s what I wanted’, however the offer letter comes through and it says basic salary £26k + car allowance £3k +  1k parking – total £30k.  This can present problems. Ultimately it’s the salary the candidate was looking for – it’s just the way the client bundles the money together. So it requires a certain level of pragmatic thinking to say,’ ok, the end number is the same, I don’t care how they arrive at it.’  I should note that there are not many agencies around today who would say ‘here is your £30k salary plus a £5k car allowance – so I seldom see ‘big’ packages with a host of add on benefits.  To be honest, this is not an industry where cars or car allowances have ever been prevalent but my point is to decide at the outset, what you consider to be a reasonable offer and make sure you communicate this to your recruiter and potential employer.

Finally, I think there is a caveat here to say work with recruiters you like, trust and respect.  Of course, as in any industry, there are cowboys out there.   But you should always feel that the recruiter has your back and is giving you good objective advice.     Recruiters know that offers do not guarantee placements for them and a good recruiter will always be hoping to have a long term relationship with you throughout your career and hope that if they don’t place you now,  you’ll come back to them in the future – either as a candidate or a client.  Like I said, it’s a small world up North.