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By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

For most people handing in your resignation is a difficult experience. There are plenty of things to consider if you want to have a smooth resignation that leaves you with a positive outcome and maintains your professional reputation. My advice relates to the scenario where you are leaving to join another company however there will be circumstances where this isn’t the case. If you are resigning without a job to go to make sure your CV is up to date and that you have researched the market thoroughly so that you are fully up to speed when you start your job search. Please see my previous blog on how to conduct your job search.

So what aspects need to be considered when resigning?

Are you sure?

It may sound obvious but it is a decision not to be taken lightly and you must be sure you are making the right decision. Your decision should be firm and final and you can then focus on navigating the resignation process. Before talking to anyone in your current organisation, you should first wait until you have your new offer confirmed in writing. Make sure you are totally happy with all aspects of the offer or contract and ask for further information if needed before you resign.

Timing is important.

You do not have to resign the second your offer letter arrives. Clearly, your new employer will be keen for you to resign quickly so you can start with their business as soon as possible but waiting 24 hours might be wise. You may need to think about bonus payments that are due to you and if so you may need to delay your resignation until the money is on your account (check your contract for clarity on this). If this is the case, make sure your new employer or the agency managing your offer is aware of this well in advance.

Wherever possible, your resignation should be done face to face, even if this means travelling to see your boss in person. This will ensure your notice period begins immediately and will sit more comfortably with your line manager. You should be very careful about who is aware of your intention to resign. A sense of betrayal will be felt in any case but for your boss to hear on the grapevine is likely to make things particularly difficult. The same is said once you have resigned – if it has not been announced yet internally it is probably best not to post it on Facebook!

Have a clear plan.

It is important that you have a strategy for what objectives you want to achieve. There will be some obvious aims, for instance ensuring that positive relations are maintained, that the door is kept open so you could return in the future and being seen to have dealt with the situation professionally. A key objective is the negotiation of your notice period and leaving date. One important aspect that people often forget is to dig out their contract to fully understand any obligations and restrictions. You may find that during your employment that you have been issued with a new contract and so it is important to review all these documents. I know of numerous examples where candidates have been wrong about their notice period which will not go down well with your new employer.

The resignation letter.

It is important that you give your employer a resignation letter when you verbally resign so that your notice period officially begins. Your letter should be short and to the point, stating that you are resigning effective on month/day/year in order to take another position. You do not need to provide any detail about the company or role you are moving to.

The resignation meeting.

It is important that you try and take the emotion out of the meeting and act professionally. Although you may feel a sense of satisfaction from telling your boss what you really think you have to analyse what there is to be gained from being negative. You should prepare yourself for a number of reactions ranging from congratulatory handshakes to out-and-out anger. Your line manager may take this news personally and knowing your departure will reflect badly on them could cause a negative reaction. Try not to point out the reasons why you are leaving but rather the reasons why you are taking on the new role. You should also be prepared that they may try and persuade you to stay. Generally it is not advisable to accept counter offers but of course there are occasions where this might be the right thing to do. Please see my previous blog When is right to accept a counter offer?

Depending on the type of role you hold within your company, you should be prepared that you may be escorted from the premises immediately and not be permitted to return to your desk. This is more likely in senior positions or when you are leaving to join a competitor. If you suspect this may be the case, you should clear personal details/contacts from phones and e-mail and discretely clear your desk of essential items before you resign. You should also be prepared to negotiate on your notice period. If you wish to reduce your notice you are likely to have to provide some commitment about what you will achieve before leaving (a structured handover or training your replacement, for instance).

Exit Interview.

In many businesses you will be invited to an exit interview. This may be quite different to your resignation meeting, as it will be conducted by HR and will probably be less emotive, designed to elicit feedback about what could have been done differently to retain you. As with the resignation meeting you should try and remain positive. Think carefully about how you can convey your views in a constructive and positive manner. Think about what you have to lose by being negative – it is great to give feedback and examples but also remember that sometimes things are better left unsaid.

References

By behaving in a professional and positive way you are much more likely to be able to call on referees to provide a reference in either a professional or personal capacity.

Notice period.

Having handled yourself in a professional and diplomatic way during the resignation process it is important that you maintain this attitude when working your notice period. Your behaviour and performance during this time will be scrutinised and you don’t want your previous reputation to be undermined by finishing on a low. It may well be this is the thing that people remember and not your achievements over the previous few years.

Resigning is a difficult process but handled in the right way you will maintain a strong reputation and ensure that you leave on the best terms possible. It is a small world out there, particularly where you work in specialist fields or sectors, and you never know when your paths may cross again with former bosses and colleagues.

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Shane Horn – Senior Partner, AdMore Recruitment – Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

The Competency Based Interview is now widely used and so you will undoubtedly face one as you move through your job search process. Ultimately, this is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your skills and ability to do the job you are being assessed for. You can view a more detailed description here

So what is the best approach and how do you ensure that you walk away from the meeting confident that you have performed well?

  • Plan and prepare.

This may sound obvious, but interviews take practice. There will be a number of questions you will naturally ready for, but there will be many that are designed to challenge you. The key here is to have examples ready but you must deliver them in a natural way. A good interviewer will be able to spot a formulaic, pre-planned answer, and will ask you again if they want to challenge you further. You may be able to give an example of dealing with a difficult situation, but can you name three? Can you name one outside of a work situation? You can learn more here

  • Understand what the competencies are that you are going to be questioned on.

Most companies, unfortunately not all, will supply you with a list of core skills, or competencies that you will be assessed on. Most will appear on a well written job profile, but if you don’t have them, ask. A good agency will be able to help, as they will most likely have had candidates in the process before. A direct hiring manager will also have access to the information. If they don’t want to supply the information, try to understand why. I don’t know of anyone that hasn’t got a job offer because they wanted to be fully briefed.

  • Use the CAR approach

You may have the best examples to give, however if you can’t articulate them, you will fall down. You may have heard of STAR, but CAR – Context, Action, and Result is a lot simpler to remember. The easiest approach is to set the scene of the example, tell the interviewer what you did, and what the result of this was. This will allow you to tell a story in a natural style, and to talk through your situation in a clear way. It also allows the assessor to question you – this is a good thing! The more the interviewer questions you, the more engaged they are.

  •  Don’t allow the interviewer to put you off your game!

Some classically trained interviewers will follow the ‘script’, showing no emotion and won’t even ask you any questions. They may have a huge amount to get through in a short period of time. Don’t let this put you off! Be confident in your ability to answer the question. There should be an opportunity at the end of the interview to build rapport so use this time wisely.

  • Expect the unexpected

More and more clients are aware that many questions can be prepared for, so expect a few curve balls. Most recently, a client of mine asked “what piece of living room furniture would you be?” Not technically a competency based interview, but one that will make you think. Also, I have known interviewers to throw a role-play into the middle of an interview to show evidence of the example a candidate gave. So be prepared to be able to back up what you say! Some of the oddest interview questions of the last 12 months can be found here

We haven’t covered general interview tips, but you can find more information here and here

I would be interested to hear of any other key points you may have, or any testing questions you may have been asked.

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By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

When asking candidates what type of business they wish to work for, one of the most common responses is that they are looking to work for a people focused business. On further probing, I often find that candidates struggle to articulate exactly what a people focused business means to them and a large proportion find it difficult to talk through what elements of culture they would look for in this type of business. I think in many instances, candidates tell me what they don’t want in an organisation rather than what they do want. They tend to focus on things that they don’t like about the organisation they currently work for as opposed to the desirable elements of a people focused business. What I also find very interesting is that they often don’t look at it from the perspective of cultural fit. Their desire may sometimes be a little ideological – that they want to work for a paternalistic company who treats it employees incredibly well putting them above any other objectives, without considering whether that is the culture that would best suit their own values and behaviours. The balance of these objectives against other business objectives will vary and businesses can be very different in their approach with different people suiting different cultures. What is clear and understandable is that individuals want to work in a culture where they are valued, feel empowered and rewarded for what they do.

In my view, a people focused business is one where the ideology of the organisation is that by hiring, engaging and rewarding great people you will be able to more effectively achieve the company objectives. Surely all businesses act in this way? As we are all aware, this is far from the truth.

So what exactly does a people focused look like and what are the signs to look out for?

  • A supportive culture. A people focused business is one where people are truly at the centre of its actions. One where the individual gets out as much as they are putting in. It will be a business where people feel listened to and this may manifest itself through forums and surveys as well as the openness of the culture.

 

  • Strong internal communications. High levels of communication are important in ensuring you are engaging and motivating your workforce and should lead to a greater sense of belonging and working towards a common goal. Again a great step in maximising the potential of your people.

 

  • A training and development team. Many businesses talk about the development they provide but when you ask about specific programs that are in place or budgets allocated they can provide little evidence. Truly people focused businesses will invest in people with the belief that this will increase productivity, aid retention and lead to stronger long term profits.

 

  • A structured appraisal system. Linked to the development of people is having a structured appraisal system that provides a sense of purpose, clarity of expectation and provides transparency and structure to Line Managers about how they manage their people. Again, this is a good indicator about the focus the business places on its development strategy.

 

  • Strong benefits and conditions. It is not only about how you treat and manage your workforce but also how you reward them. To attract and retain the best people, it is important that the benefits package is designed to support the individual.  This is not about necessarily offering the highest salary in your sector but is about what else you can do to provide the individual with a work/life balance to try and ensure you get the best out of them. This could range from gym membership to time off to support a local charity. All these elements are designed to improve the emotional and physical well being of the individual with the view that this will improve their productivity and contribution to the business.

 

  • A Wellness policy. The more cutting edge people focused businesses may have gone a step further and have introduced a Wellness policy. This area is growing in popularity and involves taking a more holistic approach to the care and well-being of your employees. The advocates of this philosophy believe that taking a more involved and caring approach will have significant benefits longer term not only in terms of the loyalty and motivation of the workforce but also in productivity.  Businesses introducing such schemes are likely to have a strong people focus.

 

  • Effective performance management. A people focused business isn’t about having a soft culture where poor performance is tolerated. It is about having an open, transparent culture where expectations are clear. Again, it is not about what is said but the actions that are taken.

 

  • A robust selection process. Placing importance on recruiting the right people who culturally fit the organisation and share the right values is a sign that people are really at the heart of the company’s strategy.

Many businesses will describe themselves as people focused but are they really? Whilst the list above provides some indicators, ultimately it is about culture and about behaviour.

I saw one business recently describe itself as a people focused business that does what ever it takes to deliver. So, what does it do when these elements conflict? What happens if getting that result has a negative impact on their people?  To really understand if a business is people focused you need to talk to their employees and focus on not what it says, but what does it actually does. A useful website to visit is http://www.glassdoor.co.uk which provides employer reviews by existing and previous employees.

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By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

We wrote previously about the importance of maintaining your Linkedin profile to ensure a consistent brand message as employers are increasingly reviewing candidates’ social media presence. We have compiled the following points for those of you who are less familiar with the functionality or indeed what recruiters look for. There are a couple of key points to remember as you build your profile; Firstly you should have a clear idea of what your personal brand is ahead of writing the profile and secondly to ensure you are easily ‘found’, you need to optimise your use of key words.

  • Customise your Linkedin URL

Set your LinkedIn profile to “public” and add a unique URL to your profile (for example www.linkedin.com/in/jezstyles). To do this click on ‘edit profile’ and next to where it says ‘public profile’ click edit again. This also makes it easier to include your LinkedIn URL in your email signature, which is a great way to demonstrate your professionalism. It will also ensure you rank higher in search engines such as Google.

  • Use an informative and accurate Profile Headline

The default setting is the last position you held. There has been much debate on various forums and there are two opposing views; your headline should reflect your last position; Or, your profile should reflect where you see your ‘brand’ being positioned ie “Operations Director for FTSE 250 Retailer.” You will often see “Looking for opportunities.” While this may reflect your employment status it creates a negative impression. Andy Headworth, at Sirona Consulting wrote a great blog about this – read here.

  • Upload an ‘appropriate’ Photo!

This may be obvious but do keep this professional. It should also reflect the brand you are keen to portray. Fashion candidates should ensure they are dressed in a manner that reflects their current or target market. An ex colleague of mine recently, and to be fair temporarily, uploaded a picture of himself sporting a rather impressive pair of spectacles despite the fact that he rarely wore them (you know who you are!). It is best to ensure your photo reflects what you look like in real life!

  • Provide Contact Information?

You can provide contact information on your profile (either on the summary page or in the specific communication fields) so that people can get in touch with you outside of the parameters of LinkedIn. It is worth doing this if you are active in your job search and you wish to reduce the barriers to simple communication. If you are nervous about doing this you can amend your privacy settings so that this is only visible to first degree connections.

  • Add relevant websites

You can add up to three websites and it is worth utilising this function. I would suggest adding your company website particularly if you work for a niche brand, your Twitter link, your blog or any other website that you are personally invested in.

  • Complete your Education

Get as much detail in here as you are comfortable with and do not be shy about including any summer courses or distance learning. If you work within a functional specialism such as property, it is worth mentioning that you are chartered and the year you qualified.

  • Develop a professional Summary & Specialities statement

Your statement should incorporate a short paragraph summarising your experience to date. It is worth highlighting some unique experiences, what differentiates you from your peers or any outstanding awards or achievements. Overall, it should be a clear and concise representation of your ‘brand message.’ It has also become common place to add a list of keywords or phrases to the bottom of this section. The keywords are crucial as this is often what recruiters search for when looking for prospective candidates ie. if your job title is not an industry standard term you could add appropriate key words to ensure you can be easily ‘found’.

  • Ensure your Experience (Career) is fully complete

As we mentioned in our previous blog, recruiters are beginning to cross reference LinkedIn Profiles with CVs. It is essential that the dates and job titles are consistent. It is worth detailing responsibilities, accountabilities and achievements where possible. This is another opportunity to add keywords thus ensuring you optimise your search position. However…your LinkedIn profile is not a replacement for a CV, so if you are looking for a new position you will still need to put one together.

  • Languages

Don’t be shy about adding languages. British retailers are increasingly expanding overseas and language skills are increasingly in demand. Similarly, international retailers looking to move in to the UK will be very keen to identify candidates that can communicate in their native language.

  • Add Applications

It is worth checking adding useful applications (via settings) such as WordPress (for your blog if you have one), Box files (any documents you may wish to add such as a recent presentation) or Slideshare for any presentations you may wish to upload. These applications will often reveal a side of you that your CV does not such as how you think or feel about certain topics. Again, ensure that anything you add is consistent with your ‘brand message.’

  • Ask for recommendations from a diverse selection of contacts

This doesn’t come naturally for some people however it adds a high degree of credibility. I found myself, by accident rather than design, looking at two candidates last week for a position I was recruiting for. Instinctively I was more interested in the candidate with good quality recommendations from people I respect than the individual who had none. It is worth including at least one recommendation per position.

It is also sensible to call your contacts to let them know you are planning to send a request and giving them some steer as to what you would like them to focus on, once again to ensure a consistent brand message.

  • Join ‘Groups’

It is worth joining a number of groups on LinkedIn, particularly groups that are relevant to your Industry, Specialism or Job function. Not only are the groups useful in terms of information but they will also add to the brand message you are keen to portray. They will also provide you with a vehicle to further develop your profile over a period of time (further blog to follow!). You can find our group here

  • Add Skills & Expertise?

This functionality was added to LinkedIn in the UK last year (2012). Essentially you are ‘self coding’ yourself in the way recruitment firms do within their databases. The only drawback with the functionality is that there is a temptation to add skills that are aspirational rather than experience led. Having spoken to a few colleagues and other contacts in the industry it would seem that the search functionality which accompanies this is rarely used. On the flipside it will improve keyword searches. In my opinion this is not essential but perhaps worth doing to once again strengthen that all important brand message.

  • Honours (Honors) & Awards

This section allows you to highlight specific achievements. It is worth adding one or two elements to this section although it isn’t essential!

  • Privacy Controls

You can find this under ‘settings’ via a drop down box from your name in the top right of the screen. Depending on your account type you can set varying levels of privacy. Bear in mind that if you go for the highest settings you will be difficult to find, although clearly, this is not a problem if the purpose of the account is to stay in touch with colleagues etc. Via the settings function you can also become a member of the ‘openlink network,’ this enables other non first degree connections to send you direct messages. This is of particular use if you are actively looking for a new position.

  • LinkedIn Today

The news function on LI Today has changed quite dramatically in recent months with a greater influence being placed on Influencers and the larger news sites. LinkedIn are automatically opting people in to following specific influencers. If you find your timeline is filling up with articles that are not of interest you can amend who you follow by; click Interest from the top toolbar, click influencers, click all influencers and then click the tick button to ‘unfollow.’

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By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

Having recently read a number of blogs on this subject I feel compelled to write this as I believe most articles are very one sided in their viewpoint. Most are focused on outlining to candidates the many reasons why, when they resign, they should not be tempted to stay by a counter offer. I don’t think I have read anything explaining the reasons why you SHOULD accept a counter offer but here’s the thing – there are times and there are circumstances when the right thing to do is to stay put.

To me it all comes down to the individual’s motivations for leaving the organisation in the first place. Often individuals are very happy in their careers, working for a company they respect, where they are paid well for the job that they do, where they are culturally aligned and where they feel valued. Sometimes the missing piece and hence their desire to move on is purely driven by their ambition to take on a more senior role with more responsibility. If the counter offer entails gaining that promotion and taking on that responsibility then why not accept?

You can ask why had the promotion not happened already however sometimes (particularly in the current market) there has to be a reason or a rationale to make things happen. Your resignation may just be that catalyst that makes things happen.  Only you as an individual will know how well you have been looked after and how genuine your employer’s intentions are.

As has been well documented, I would also caution people from accepting a counter offer based on either pure promises  or increased salary alone. This is an important and difficult decision for people to make, often with two competing parties putting you under significant pressure to stay or to accept the other role.  Certainly, these situations are rarely as clear cut as many articles suggest.

My advice if you are unsure is to talk to people you trust who are impartial to the situation and who will try and make you see the situation in a balanced and unbiased way.

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By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

I was recently asked for some advice by a friend who had been headhunted. The salary on offer constituted a significant uplift and, although he didn’t know a great deal about the company in question, he was understandably intrigued enough to attend an interview. As the process progressed, he started to weigh up his options and subsequently came to me for my perspective as a recruiter. As is often the case, his head was spinning as the approach had come out of the blue (he was not actively looking for a new role) and what he needed was a reality check so he could consider the offer rationally.

So, here is the advice I gave him which I hope will come in useful if you ever get the call!

  • Firstly, I must clarify what I mean by headhunted. Being headhunted in its purest sense is when you have been specifically targeted by an organisation (usually a competitor) for a specific role, usually based on a recommendation or based on research which indicates that you are a proven top performer. The approach could come from the company directly, indeed some blue-chip companies are now hiring ex-headhunters to join their in-house teams to set up their own internal ‘search’ function. Most likely, the approach will be made by a search firm that has been engaged by the company. This is different to being contacted by a recruitment agency who have identified that you may be suitable for one of their client’s vacancies.

 

  • When you receive a headhunt call, it is worth establishing the credentials of the person calling. By nature, if you are not active in the market, it can be hard to track you down and so search firms may need to take a cloak and dagger approach in order to make contact, often calling you at your workplace. They should say who they are and which search firm they work for, even if at the initial stage they cannot reveal the name of their client. Bear in mind that you may also be asked to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) if the brief is confidential.

 

  • A search is generally done in response to a specific role so the company should be able to give you a detailed brief, if not a copy of the Job Description. The top search firms will produce a detailed overview of your experience, skills and behavioural qualities which they will submit to the client if you are included in their shortlist and as such they will need to meet you face to face.

 

  • Usually you will be headhunted because of your specific skillset/client base/black book/track record and the approach will probably come from a competitor who knows about you. In this case, you should know a lot about the company but it is still really important that you do your research. This is even more important if you do not know the company. You need to find out what their market is, how they are performing financially, who their clients/customers/major accounts are, what their growth strategy is and most importantly (and harder to find out), what they are like to work for, how they treat their employees, what opportunities there are to progress internally. This is where you need to hone your research skills. Use the internet to find out company information and to read latest press releases, news articles etc. Scour the company website for latest annual reports. Glassdoor.co.uk is a useful source of information about company culture as it collates reviews from current and former employees (although generally at low to mid levels). The most powerful method of finding out about them is to speak to your network – do you know anyone who has worked for them recently or who works for them now?

 

  • Keep your ego in check! It is hugely flattering to be properly headhunted, particularly on the back of a specific recommendation of your work. It is easy to get swept away as you are ‘wooed’ by your suitor showering you with compliments, offering you all manner of riches and generally making you feel very special. This will be all the more powerful if you are feeling a little disgruntled in your current role – perhaps a promotion has been promised but not delivered or the company is not paying out bonuses. It may be a fantastic opportunity but you should still do your due diligence before you make any decisions. Equally, be careful not be too aloof – just because you have been approached doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed the job – you are merely entering the selection process and so you will still have to prove your worth.

 

  • In the words of Jessie J, “it’s not about the money, money, money”! If it is just about the money then be very careful indeed. If you heart starts to race thinking about the salary on offer, stop and think. Then, get a blank piece of paper, a calculator, your P60, current contract and details of your benefits package and start to do your sums. You need to compare the new offer and your current package like for like. Separate each element of your package out and work through them line by line. How do the car allowances compare? Does the new offer include personal mileage? What about health cover – does it include cover for all the family or just you individually? How are bonuses calculated, when are they paid and how much has typically been paid out in recent years? What impact will a move have on your pension, share scheme, equity? Only by doing this exercise, will you really have an accurate picture of what this move will mean for you financially.

 

  • If you currently work for a large organisation and the headhunt has come from a smaller company, weigh up the relative opportunities presented by staying in your current company (strong brand on your CV, more opportunities laterally, more security) versus making the move to a growing business (more rapid progression, bigger role).

 

  • “Discretion is the better part of valour”. ON NO ACCOUNT, feel tempted to tell your current boss/colleagues that you have been headhunted. While this may give your ego a gentle stroke in the short term, it could plant the seed of doubt in the mind of your employer. Equally, breaking the confidence of the search firm may seem inconsequential, however be aware that reputational integrity, once lost, is almost impossible to recover. These firms have the ears of the most senior HR and Line Directors in your industry and it is prudent to maintain a positive relationship, even if you decide not to pursue the approach.

 

Clearly, this advice is equally relevant whether you have been headhunted or have applied for a role however the big difference with a headhunt call is your state of mind. If you apply for a role, you will have spent time preparing your CV and generally getting in to the mind-set required to find a new role. You will be ready to leave your current company and chances are you will have drawn up a list of your target employers.

A headhunt call, by its very nature, will catch you unawares and you need to understand the steps you need to take if you decide to proceed so you can ultimately make the right decision for your career.

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By Shane Horn, AdMore Recruitment – Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

I’m a retailer, first and foremost. You only have to ask my wife how annoying I can be re-merchandising a store I have followed her into! I now just so happen to recruit people into the industry I love. Yes, it is tough going, but retail businesses are still looking for great people, that is something that hasn’t changed over the years!

What has changed however is the lay of the retail land. Omni-channel, Click and Collect and the newest buzzword ‘showrooming’ weren’t around 3 years ago, let alone 19 years ago when I started my retail career with Next! But what hasn’t changed is the key focus for all retailers great and small – the focus on the customer and service.

What prompted me to think about this was a pretty poor experience over the weekend where multi-channel retailing resulted in both a loss of sale (and a grumpy wife!)

We were looking to buy a shelving unit in a well known department store. We saw one we liked but were informed that the product was only available to buy online. Not a problem I thought, when I get home I will log in to their website and purchase, select my delivery date – happy days! However, the product wasn’t on the website. It was nowhere to be seen! No mention of it, and no idea if it was out of stock or just old season. So, how can it go so wrong?

Purchasing a product has never been easier. We can do it sitting on a train, over the phone, heck, we can even walk into a store and buy it on our lunch break!  Regardless of the method of purchase this experience falls down with bad service. How often have we heard a friend mention they have ordered a product for it to then mysteriously be sold out? Or received poor, ill informed product knowledge on the high street?

Consumers are an intelligent bunch. There is a lot of talk of the rise of the Mamil, (Middle Age Men In Lycra). Although not quite middle aged, I am one of a growing band of men happy to spend a fair bit of cash on my bike. Halfords have been very clear they are looking to take a large chunk of the market, and have recently launched a huge customer service program costing hundreds of millions on pounds. There is talk of recruiting specialists into each store that ‘know their stuff’ (although Jessops may testify this is not always a great commercial move). Anyone that has recently visited an independent bike retailer will tell you that making you feel like an idiot for not knowing your groupset from your chainset is as just as bad as the sales assistant knowing next to nothing! Consumers want choice, and great service, and the Mamil is tech savvy. They will spend hours reading through magazines, forums and reviews looking for the next product that will shave a few seconds off their PB, or save them a few grams. This, I think, is why the likes of Wiggle, Chain Reaction and Evans Cycles have got it right online. There is choice, they have knowledgeable staff, (you can hide behind an email and not look stupid!) and items are delivered on time or even to store in the case of Evans Cycles.

The Mamil is not just a new breed of male, ahem, ‘athlete’ but a new brand of consumer who wants to be treated well and maturely. It is too simple to expect the customer to come into a store without an expectation of service.

Mothercare have recently commissioned a survey to assess how consumers respond to a smile. Funnily enough they spend more – is this really surprising? It shouldn’t be! If staff need to be taught to smile, then frankly they are in the wrong industry.  It doesn’t matter how much you spend on websites, logistics or stores, if the consumer doesn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling then they will go elsewhere.  The choice is huge for the consumer, it’s competitive and with the help of social media, it is now transparent. If you don’t get it right, your customer will let you know about it!

Customer service is expensive. To have the right people  properly trained is not an easy task but the opportunity cost of not getting this right is huge (the old retail saying  – you’re only as good as your worst member of staff still rings true!).

Retail is, in its simplest form, straightforward. There are a large number of retailers getting it right, and those looking to change focus should be applauded. Getting people to part with their hard earned cash is tough, and as the consumer changes so does the world of retail. But, at its core, Service is key, and that hasn’t changed since I started my retail career all those years ago!

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 onboard

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

I thought about writing this blog at 3.30am last night. I had been up for over an hour with my two year old twins whom have been very unsettled by a recent house move. Probably somewhat naively I assumed that our relocation from Kingston to Wokingham would have little impact on the kids. You always hear how children are quick to adapt and given their age I thought they would barely notice any difference. Mum and Dad were still around so what was the problem?

What I hadn’t appreciated was that my little girl has developed a genuine affection for her friends in the various playgroups she attends and that she has reached a point where she craves interaction with the people she knows. Our little boy, being a boy, is a bit oblivious to people but does like his routine. He knows what he likes (Peppa Pig, hiding & big slides) and in Kingston he knew when he was arriving at a favourite playgroup. Overnight they have lost their structure, routine, friends and probably some security through familiarity. Reflecting on this at 3.30am I felt a little stupid, how could I not have foreseen this when day-in day-out I witness a mixture of good and bad new-job-on-boarding processes for the candidates I talk to.

Recruitment consultants are generally paid by companies once a candidate starts in their role. What you may not appreciate is that there is generally a ‘rebate period.’ In essence if a candidate leaves within a certain timeframe the recruiter will have to pay part of the fee back to the company. Rebate periods can be as little as 4 weeks and as high as 12 months. It is a bit of a bone of contention in the industry as recruiters often feel powerless to control how an employer on-boards their employees; and this on-boarding is often what makes or breaks a successful transition. Indeed, I read a stat recently that suggested that 22% of employees leave their job in the first 45 days of employment. However, I don’t want to get in to a debate about that as there are plenty of good reasons why rebate periods exist, I would prefer to concentrate on what we as recruiters can do to ensure a successful job transition. If you are a candidate due to start a new role it is worth bearing in mind that we recruiters (that are focussed on long term relationships…) can/and should offer post placement support:

  • Get the basics right.

Arguably on-boarding starts with the overall candidate experience through the hiring process but the first tangible difference a consultant can make is to ensure a candidate receives a full offer and contract PRIOR to starting. Do not be afraid to push your consultant if you are concerned about any detail in the contract. For example, if you have a query about the pension scheme it is best to get this ironed out prior to starting and through your consultant. You will not have time once you have started to get in to the detail and many employers will assume that as you have started that you will have no queries.

  • Put solid foundations in place:

Ask your consultant to set up a coffee chat with your line manager prior to starting; this is particularly important if the notice period ranges from 3-12 months. It is crucial that you work on your relationship with your new line manager prior to starting.

  • Map the business:

Meet your consultant for a coffee prior to starting your new role and ask them to map the function or indeed the wider business for you. Not only should your consultant be able to talk through the organisational structure but they may also be able to provide insight in to specific individuals, personality quirks, likes/dislikes, interests and as always the politics. This should ensure that you are able to develop a targeted networking plan.

  • Build your network:

Ask your consultant to introduce you to any other relevant contacts they may have in the organisation. That may be through a simple LinkedIn introduction or through an exchange of contact numbers. The chances are the consultant will have placed other people within the business so the contacts should be warm!

  • Seek external support:

At a more senior level your consultant should be able to connect you to a mentor. This would ideally be someone who has operated in similar roles that has a genuine passion for coaching.

  • Talk, Talk, Talk:

Do talk to your consultant over the first few weeks. We do want you to do well, not just be because it means we get paid but because most of us actually like people! If you have any problems your consultant may be able to offer solutions that are not immediately obvious. Do not be afraid to ask for advice about cultural or personal nuances that you have encountered.

So if I was to apply my own advice to my children’s recent change, what I should have done was take the kids to a few playgroups in advance of the move and ideally put the foundations in place for a few friendships. It sounds so simple on reflection…ah well on to the next parental mistake!

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Further blogs on how candidates can leverage their recruitment consultants:

What should your Recruitment Consultant really do for you?

10 Questions every candidate should ask their recruitment consultant

A Candidate’s Guide to Working with Recruitment Consultants

While we have seen an increase in the use of Skype and other video based technology it would seem that the use of the Telephone Interview is back on the rise. It is an inexpensive method for judging cultural and or behavioural fit and is often the first stage in recruitment processes; Forming the backbone of a labour intensive campaign or quite simply an ‘informal chat’ for a senior executive. It is however, full of pitfalls for candidates. Here are ten easy to follow tips that will ensure you create the best impression possible.

1) Get the Environment right:

Try to avoid conducting the interview in a busy, noisy environment or indeed in your car. A private office where you will not be disturbed is perfect. Too many telephone interviews are interrupted by questions from colleagues, or the barista behind the counter at Starbucks! Ensure you allow enough time for the interview and do not assume it will be a ‘quick ten minutes.’  Use a landline for receiving the call. Poor mobile phone reception is the single biggest reason why many telephone interviews fail to take place. While they are technological wonders, our mobile phones are surprisingly unreliable at the worst possible time when it comes to their most fundamental function; making and receiving calls.

2) Prepare.

This is a fantastic opportunity to have your notes and CV in front of you during the interview. Make sure you summarise your notes focussing on key points to avoid scripted answers.

3) Sit in front of the mirror.

This may seem a little odd but quite simply it will give you an indication of how you are coming across. Do you look animated? Is your head up? Perhaps most importantly are you smiling? If not then try to focus on doing so, this may translate in you feeling more confident and therefore sounding more positive!  Alternatively you could try standing up and walking around. If you are more comfortable walking and talking then ensure you are in the right environment to do this. Many people feel they are more animated when upright and this allows for a greater level of focus.

4) DO NOT actively listen when asked questions.

A common mistake to make, however actively listening in a telephone interview can disrupt flow as you will find the interviewer may stop talking. This can lead to a disjointed and awkward conversation.

5) Ask the interviewer to rephrase or repeat back the question.

If you are slightly uncertain about the question either ask the interviewer to rephrase or indeed paraphrase this back. You should try to avoid doing this repeatedly but it is better to get your answer right first time.

6) Use regular pauses.

Leave healthy pauses after every two or three sentences to allow the interviewer to either drill further down or confirm they have heard enough.

7) Vary your pace, pitch and tone.

It is very difficult to convey energy and empathy over the phone so it is important that you vary your speech. The monotone interview is the bane of all interviewers!

8) Practice a CV run through.

The structure of telephone interviews will often vary but a standard format will be CV based. If you are asked to run through your career history you should qualify how long this should last. Do they want a 30 second elevator pitch or a detailed 30 minute conversation? Either way, plan ahead!

9) Build rapport early on but avoid too many jokes!

As with all interviews first impressions count. Good interviewers will try to break the ice early on. Reciprocate and avoid coming across as ‘cold.’

10) Ask Questions.

Like most interviews you will get a chance to ask questions. If an interviewer has a solid day of telephone interviews you will probably stand out more if you ask an insightful question about the business/role and more importantly about them.

I hope this helps and as always feel free to add some suggestions to the comments below. Jez Styles

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Colourful numbers scattered on white

By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development

Reading through the latest hospitality report from the Caterer.com job website released this week unfortunately doesn’t make particularly happy reading. Whilst the Governor of the Bank of England talks about signs of recovery, it is clear that the Hospitality sector is still having a challenging time which naturally impacts on the people that work within it.  So what are the numbers telling you about the sector and your employment prospects?

Looking at the numbers from the Caterer report there is a clear decline in the number of vacancies with a fall of some 10% on the previous year. Unfortunately for job seekers, this was matched by a 4% increase in the number of job applications. This reinforces what we are seeing in the market, that the job market in hospitality remains extremely competitive. In fact, looking at the previous caterer report we can see that in fact the decline in roles has actually accelerated from an 8% decline to a 10% decline and that the increase in applications has also accelerated, moving from a 2% increase to a 4% increase.  Such dramatic falls can be reconciled by a number of factors, firstly that due to the on-going economic uncertainty people are “sitting tight” which is actually reducing “churn” in the market.  However it can also be attributed to the continued economic challenges that are causing businesses to remain cautious about their investment in people.  Without doubt though over the last four years, many businesses have chosen to invest in developing and retaining their existing staff as the most cost effective people strategy.

Across the sectors, there has been mixed performances. Some sectors have fared better than others with the Pub sector continuing to face very challenging times. According to figures from the Office of National Statistics, over the last 5 years there has been a 14% decline in the number of pubs.  Interestingly according to those statistics in 2011 5,505 new pubs opened but some 6,115 closed indicating the significant churn and instability in that sector.   This also reflects the changing nature of the market as pubs adapt to trends in the market with many now diversifying into more food-led operations.

However, there are some good news stories out there and reading the M & C report each day certainly gives me some hope. As expected, there are always winners and losers and in this highly competitive sector, those businesses that have their proposition right and are able to communicate this effectively to their customers are prospering.   Whitbread for instance recently released some stellar results with like-for-like sales up 3.7% and yesterday The Restaurant Group’s shares reached an all time high on the back of the strong results they released yesterday showing a 4.5% increase in their like-for-like sales.

The Hospitality sector continues to be an incredibly dynamic and exciting industry.  Trends and customer needs are constantly changing. New concepts, designs and formats are constantly being designed and launched and those that satisfy and capture the needs of the market will reap strong rewards.

So what do these statistics say about your career in Hospitality?

Firstly, it shows the sector continues to face challenges and that the competition for roles remains as intense as ever. This reinforces the need for candidates to prepare effectively for their job search and to ensure that, when they do secure an interview, that they are able to perform exceptionally well. By conducting thorough research into the brand including site visits and SWOT analyses when appropriate, ensuring that you are able to provide tangible examples of your achievements and by giving evidence that you possess the capabilities required for your target role, you will have an edge over your competition.

It also shows that different sectors are performing better than others and within each market there are clear winners and losers. With rapidly changing customer needs, businesses need to change, adapt and evolve and those that do will outperform the market strongly. By keeping in touch with developments in the sector as a whole, you will be able to assess where the growth areas are likely to be and which businesses will offer you the most career development. Industry publications such as the Caterer and the M&C report are invaluable however, keeping in touch with your personal network of contacts is also hugely effective in keeping tabs on what is happening in the industry and what opportunities this could present for you.

To be successful in your job search in the current market, you must focus on those roles where your skills are most transferable and where your experience is most relevant. By doing this, you will maximise your chances of success when a precious vacancy arises.

For further advice on your job search, please read our blog “How to look for a role in 2013

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