Archive for April, 2013


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

I wrote this last night, full of excitement about tomorrow night’s Recruiter Awards, for which we have been shortlisted in the Best Newcomer category. The awards have given me a rare chance to reflect and have made me think about the growth of AdMore so far and how critical attracting the right people is to our future growth. We have been able to recruit some fantastic people, some of the best in our market but we will need many more people of this calibre to really help the business grow.  So why is it that people choose to work for a small, growing and successful company like AdMore rather than a large corporate organisation?

  • Your role will be broader and you will be able to do a lot of different things

One of the frustrations many individuals have working in large organisations is that the scope of their role is often too narrow and that is very easy to find yourself being pigeon holed. In a small, growing business you are more likely to be involved in a broader range of tasks and have the opportunity to participate in larger projects. With limited resources, your remit is also likely to be wider, offering a more interesting role incorporating Marketing, Social Media and PR for instance, in addition to your day job. With a smaller business you will also gain a greater exposure to senior people and to individuals with significant levels of experience, more so than you would ever get in a large corporate and this is likely to help you gain experience quicker and learn more from those around you.

  • Greater job satisfaction

Arguably, with less people you are likely to have a higher profile and it is clearer to everyone in the business when you have done a good job.  You are much less likely to have to jump through lots of different hoops to progress and are much less likely to have to fight against the politics of big corporate organisations. Being valued, recognised and rewarded for the job you do has a real impact on job satisfaction.  Performance in a small business is very transparent so as well as being recognised for your successes there is also nowhere to hide from your failures.

  • You’ll have more responsibility

In a small business more trust and faith has to be placed on the individuals, decisions are often required to be made quickly and so accountability for these decisions is there for everyone to see. This may not be to everyone’s liking but it does help individuals learn quickly and cope with high levels of responsibility and decision making.  Many individuals like this trust and freedom and the accountability that comes with it. This is great for developing your character and will also look good on your CV.

  • You’ll be given more opportunity

Joining a small but growing business should also present more career opportunities. This is particularly the case if you join at the ground level and the business expands rapidly.  Your close relationship with the executives and the breadth of knowledge you have of the business is likely to open up more senior roles as the company expands and hires more people. In undertaking a much broader range of roles you can also increase your marketability from a future career perspective. Small businesses are much more reliant on a number of key people and this also gives some security to the individual as the business is much more likely to be reliant on their knowledge and contribution.

  • The culture will be great and so will the perks

As most businesses get bigger, they will tend to put more rules and regulations in place in order to try to manage the increasing size of their workforce. As the business grows beyond a particular size it becomes very difficult to manage discretion and flexibility and these are often replaced by policies and procedures which, it can be argued, have a negative effect on employees.  Large organisations with shareholders to satisfy are constantly looking of ways to cut costs and be more efficient and changes they make have a huge impact because of their scale. These cuts will often be made to perks or cultural aspects and certainly the downturn has seen many businesses cut back in these areas. Small businesses can offer that flexibility and they often offer more perks, whether that be gym membership, a pool table in office or flexi-time. These perks are ranked strongly by potential employees as being important.

  • You will hold the values more strongly

Small businesses often have very strong cultures based around the values of the founders. In a smaller business it is easier to hold true to these values and not compromise in the way that big businesses often have to.  If you can find a business where culturally you fit and one where you really share its values then how the business behaviours and operates is much more likely to ring true.

  • You will learn the art of prudence

In a smaller business there tends to be a more natural focus on how to do more with less. You will develop a mind-set of how to achieve more not only with less money but also less time; Small businesses don’t have the time or the resources to be inefficient otherwise they simply won’t survive.  These skills in the current environment are very attractive and again will increase your marketability when you come to look for another position.

  • It’s easier to make stuff happen

Arguably, one of the greatest reasons is that it is just easy to make things happen – a lack of red tape, politics, procedures and other restrictions means you can just get stuff done. If you are not making the decisions yourself you will certainly be close to those who are and so it is much easier and quicker to influence these people and galvanise those around you to take action and make sure that the business moves forward. This allows you to focus all your time and energy on what needs to be delivered and not on how it needs to be delivered.

Don’t get me wrong, there are benefits to working for large organisations whether that is paid training or the opportunity to work internationally in the same way there are risks of working for a small business whether this be job security or a lack of training and development. Working for a small company will be appropriate for people at different times in their careers but as you can see above people should seriously consider the benefits they may gain by working for a small, growing and successful business. Ultimately for me it comes down to your faith in the business – so do your research thoroughly. Don’t just rely on your own perception but canvas other people in the market – what is their reputation out there?  If the opportunity arises to join a business with a great product or proposition that has a strong track record of success and is really moving forward then you should really consider getting on board for the ride…

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

The retail sector has continued to take a battering over the last twelve months, not least with a number of high profile company administrations. This has resulted in a large influx of candidates coming on to what was an already an overcrowded and highly competitive market. It can be a heart-breaking situation for many candidates who have developed an excellent skillset and still have the passion and drive to grow their career. However, if you are flexible and open to new ideas there are a wealth of opportunities out there. Retailers tend to pick up a broad and highly transferable skill-set. Indeed, there are few other industries that could better prepare you to move to a different sector. If you are keen to consider options outside of traditional retail, the first step to understanding what you could do next is first identifying what your transferable skills are:

  • Leadership & People Management

Clearly this is a broad and complex subject but in my experience, the two core skills that are often in demand are; the ability to motivate direct reports, indirect reports and other stakeholders and; the ability to manage performance in a formal and structured manner. Retailers generally learn how to do this both on the job and in the classroom – an option not always available in many companies. This skill is perhaps in itself the single most important as it really does allow retailers to move in to virtually any industry where people management is the key requirement.

  • Profit & Loss Management

Most retailers offer varying levels of accountability however broadly speaking, most have a strong understanding of the key lines in a P&L and what pulleys and levers they can operate to drive a result.

  • Business & Project Management.

Again, this can cover a multitude of things but in this case I believe that retailers have an excellent ability to manage a broad range of objectives. The skills employed will be time management, priority identification and ensuring task completion.

  • Strategy and tactical development.

The degree of exposure and therefore capability will depend on the level that you have reached but retailers learn from very early in their career, at the very least, how to develop a tactical plan on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis.

  • Sales & Business Development

Not every retailer is given the opportunity to ‘sell’ or indeed develop their business on a wider context, however those that do are able to develop a highly transferable skill. This, coupled with people management ability is in high demand currently as many companies are looking for an additional edge in a stagnant economy.

  • Coaching

Arguably this could sit under general people management. However, retailers will often develop this skill in matrix management structures whereby they are coaching individuals that are not direct reports.

  • Customer focus.

There are very few industries where managers are exposed to customers directly in such volume and regularity. Retailers have to react to market changes at pace and with a high degree of accuracy. Balancing customer focus with profit is not always straightforward.

  • Operations Management.

Depending on your retail background the experience you have here will vary. By operations management I am referring to the management of the supply chain and the store operation. Food & ‘big box’ retailers tend to have the most advanced skill-set in this regard. Understanding the cause & effect of moving units from one place to another may sound simple but in high volume environments it can be incredibly complex.

  • Relationship management.

Retail Managers up to Director level will generally develop the ability to manage multiple relationships often with stakeholders with varying agendas. The ability to balance the needs of multiple stakeholders is often overlooked but is in high demand in numerous industries and job families.

  • Change Management.

Given the scale of change that the Retail Industry has faced and continues to face, the ability to manage change has become essential for most senior retailers. Change management is often a combination of the aforementioned skills with a set of behaviours that allows for a successful delivery.

I have generally found that it is a combination of these skills that most attracts employers to ‘fish from the Retail pool.’ I would love to hear from people that have changed industry and what enabled them to make a successful transition.

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Previous blogs:

How to avoid joining the wrong business

What the numbers tell you about your future career in Retail

Retail: my tale of faith, love and survival


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

Next month, one of my colleagues celebrates his 10 year anniversary in Recruitment. He can hardly believe it has been that long. Like the rest of us at AdMore, Recruitment was his ‘second’ career following graduation and a successful period in the Retail and Hospitality industries.

Without doubt, few people choose to begin their career in our industry – often it is something that is suggested by a recruitment consultant who spots the potential, the spark, of someone who could be a success in this challenging role. Arguably, having previous career and overall life experience is of huge benefit in recruitment, not only because it enables you to empathise with the challenges and choices faced by people in their working lives but because it gives you some credibility with candidates and clients – so important in an industry which has very low barriers to entry. It will be interesting to see what impact the new Recruitment Apprenticeship which has been launched recently will have on encouraging young people to choose recruitment as career however there remains the issue of how we try to change the perception of the industry and position it as a career of choice rather than something that is ‘fallen’ into.

To kick off our little crusade, here’s my Top Eleven Best Things About a Career in Recruitment – other blogs to follow (along with the Top Ten Worst Things About a Career in Recruitment!?).

1. Wheeeeeeee!

People often refer to the rollercoaster of recruitment and it really is the best analogy to describe the ups (and downs) we experience on a daily basis. The highs are great – making an offer to a candidate (providing they accept), giving the good news to your client or hiring manager, knowing that you have found a solution for your candidate/client and are a step closer to hitting your target.

2. The people you work with

Ok, I can just imagine the collective eyebrow being raised and of course, we all know people who fit the stereotype of recruitment consultants. However, in my experience, the majority of people I have worked alongside in recruitment have been great fun, bright, hard working and incredibly positive. It is rare to find people who don’t moan about their lot (although many in recruitment have good reason to) but in recruitment, the over-riding characteristics are resilience and the determination to succeed. These are infectious qualities and preferable to other cultures where people complain constantly about their job but do nothing to change it.

3. Variety is the spice of life

Working in recruitment is interesting because, to be any good at it, you need to know your industry sector inside out. You need to understand the job roles that you are hiring, the company culture and the idiosyncrasies of the recruitment process. You have the privilege of hearing about candidates’ career history, family situation and aspirations along with any issues they have faced along their way. Every person you deal with is unique and this provides constant interest (and challenges which I will cover in my follow up blog Top Ten Worst Things about a Career in Recruitment!?).

4. Reward and Recognition

Recruitment can be financially lucrative for the top performers and if you are working for a company who pay acceptable basic salaries in addition to bonus or commission, you can make a healthy living. Senior in-house recruitment positions command significant salaries along with the benefits associated with working for large corporate businesses. Over and above the purely financial recognition, recruitment agencies are generally places where success is celebrated and when you are doing well, your achievements will be well publicised.

5. The challenge

Although the mechanics of recruitment are fundamentally simple (get briefed on vacancy, find candidate that fits, make introduction to client), in reality there is so much more to it than that. People are unpredictable and the real challenge is understanding this, anticipating any changes or pitfalls, planning or reacting accordingly and using your influencing skills to get a positive result. Recruitment tests your inter-personal skills every day and if you love people (warts and all!), this is a great career for you.

6. Stretch yourself

The longer you work in recruitment, the more experience you have of dealing with people at all levels and at all life stages. The challenges outlined above make you question yourself daily and having to use insight and empathy with your candidates and clients means that you develop your own skills accordingly. These inter-personal skills often spill over into your wider personal relationships. There is always something new to learn whether that is about what motivates people or about the new technological developments that are impacting how we source candidates.

7. Problem solving

When a client briefs you on a role, it is because they have a problem which needs a solution. Perhaps there are issues with performance in a role and a new skillset is required. Perhaps the ‘gap’ is holding the growth plans of the business back. Finding a solution to this problem requires more than finding a ‘bum for a seat’. You need to ask the right questions to understand the brief. You need to know what impact the hiring manager and the company culture will have on the search process. You then have to find someone who will have the right mix of skills, experience and behavioural qualities to truly ‘match’ the brief. The search process can be like an intricate jigsaw puzzle…for those who are intellectually curious; it is an interesting and rewarding process.

8. Accountability

The funnel analogy is widely used in recruitment and, although less so when recruiting senior level positions, it is a case of the more you put in, the more you get out. This isn’t just about volume; it is about the quality of each conversation, the quality of the contacts you make and the relationships you build. It is a very transparent industry – you can measure your own activity and often trace results back to their source. There are always lots of different factors which can affect your performance but there is rarely anyone else to blame. This makes you truly accountable for your results.

9. Entrepreneurial spirit

To be a success in recruitment you need to be commercial in everything you do – this is something that you can learn along the way but the ability to spot opportunities and an entrepreneurial spirit certainly gives you a head start. Recruitment consultants are often described as running their own virtual franchise, meaning that you are responsible for developing and growing your own sector and increasing your personal ‘brand presence’.

10. Relationships

When you get it right and are able to build genuine relationships with your candidates and clients, the role is really rewarding. This requires honesty and trust on both sides. There is nothing better than knowing you have helped someone develop their career and even if you haven’t been successful in placing someone, if you can give them some good advice and act as a sounding board, they will remember you. The litmus test is someone picking the phone up to you , sometimes years later, when they are either ready to make a move or are ready to brief you on a vacancy.

11. Talking to people

One of my colleagues (who shall remain nameless) was always in detention for talking in class and this was one of his suggestions about why he loves his job. Clearly, this is not about the ‘gift of the gab’ as this can have the opposite effect but there is no doubt that you need to enjoy talking to people. If you do, you will build rapport easily, ask the right questions, get the right answers and be able to sell yourself and your opportunities effectively. People are fascinating creatures and we are lucky to be able to spend our working lives talking to them!

If you would like any advice about a Career in Recruitment, please contact us.

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

Previous Blog Links:

In House recruiters: How to nurture the relatinoship with your recruitment agency

Be beautiful or useful

Winning hearts and minds: how to build your influence in an in-house role


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

I read an article late last year that has kept coming back to me in recent months. The article (a study by Lauren Rivera) from the December issue of the American Sociological Review suggested that Employers are often more likely to hire a person they would want to socialise with than the ‘best’ individual for the job. The article didn’t suggest that employers were hiring the wrong people, but that they would prefer to hire someone that they have bonded with, would perceive to be a future friend or who made them feel good about themselves.

Given the amount of focus on CVs, interview techniques, innovative job searches (etc, etc) most candidates could be forgiven for focussing on the ‘technical’ side of looking for a job. Getting ‘in front’ of an employer is for most candidates the primary focus and in an increasingly results driven culture it is easy to forget how important it is – to put it simply – that you and the employer like each other. Talk to any recruiter and they will confirm, if there is a shared past or common interest the candidate has a much better chance of getting the job. I believe this is particularly true in Retail where often there are no technical qualifications to differentiate one candidate from another.

So, if you are looking for a job, what can you do? Here are a few tips on how to build rapport and give you the best possible chance of landing a job offer!

  1. First impressions are crucial –  I wrote about how to create a great first impression (read here) in the first ten seconds previously. It is fairly obvious but if you don’t get the first impression right you will face an uphill battle to build rapport. You really want your interviewer to have an immediate gut reaction that they like you.
  2. Positive Body language – Smile, make eye contact, and lean in when you want to really engage. Again, you are appealing to the interviewer on a subconscious level. Where possible you should try to match your interviewer…
  3. Mirroring & Matching – This often seen as a bit of a ‘dark art’ but it is quite simple to do. The best way to learn how to do this is to just focus on one element at a time in every day conversations until you are a little more adept at combining several elements. Where possible you should match voice tone, speed and sound; breathing rates & body posture; speech patterns including specific buzz words and the level of detail. The interviewer will see a similarity in how you come across which was central to Lauren Rivera’s research.
  4. Use the person’s name wherever possible – There is a huge amount of research available but in essence people like to hear their own name. This is linked to how your brain reacts on a subconscious level and is linked to your development as a child. Read here for more information.
  5. Take a genuine interest in the interviewer and focus on them not the organisation – It is worth setting yourself some specific objectives about what you want to find out about the ‘person.’ The simple fact is that people tend to like talking about themselves. Be prepared to ask follow up questions and show genuine interest. Show empathy and indicate wherever there is common ground. Again, any chance you get to indicate commonality will give the interviewer the impression you could be a potential friend in the future.
  6. Similar activities , similarity matters – It is worth doing some research, via contacts and social media, in to what the interviewer does in their spare time and what they are passionate about. Are they a sports fan, do they go to the opera, do they have kids (and therefore do none of the aforementioned activities!)? Where possible you should get this in to the conversation. Once again, if there is a similarity of interests the interviewer will be inclined to move you up the shortlist.
  7. Compliment the person – Everyone likes praise (method of delivery is crucial for some though). If the opportunity arises give some compliments. Keep it relevant to the interviewer and try not to be too sycophantic!

Overall, keep in mind that you want to generate a sense of similarity between you and the interviewer.

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Previous blogs on interviewing:

Top ten tips for candidates from Assessment Centre Veterans

Top Tips For A Competency Based Interview

Top 10 tips for a successful Telephone Interview

Hokey Cokey

Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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

I’m an odd recruiter. Not in the sense that I don’t fit the traditional image we all know (and love?!) but because I went in-house, came back out again, and am far better because of it.

My recruitment agency career was going well – I had managed teams, moved to a search firm but still had an itch to scratch. The Holy Grail was an in-house role – how great would that be? No more business development days (fancy dress was not my bag!), no more internal arguments about candidate ownership, no more end of the quarter panic to hit your numbers. No, it would be great. Lots of jobs to fill, with warm line managers who wanted to work with me – heaven!

I really enjoyed my time in-house. It opened my eyes to the issues faced by my clients, which, without the experience I would have no idea of. I had many recruitment consultants ask me; “what’s it like? It must be great working in-house.” Or; “how did you make the move, I am keen to but always get rejected.” Oh, if only they knew! The role of an in-house recruiter is complex, where you are often accountable to multiple stakeholders. It is frustrating and rewarding in equal measure. It is impossible to understand the challenges that are faced everyday unless you have seen them yourself.

What I learnt very early on is that you can’t walk away from a problem. You can’t look at a tough job to fill and say ‘you know what, I don’t fancy working on that’. You can’t put it at the bottom of the pile and hope it goes away. Your clients (the majority just down the corridor) want results, and in some cases can’t understand why a shortlist isn’t forthcoming within 24 hours of the brief! You need to be on top of your game constantly. Who knows who will walk round the corner next and need to know why they haven’t seen any CV’s. You have to give answers and responding with “the market’s tough out there” just doesn’t cut it. Control was also an issue, as it is in any recruitment campaign, but in-house, the variables were huge. If it wasn’t a line manager going off PSL or a recruitment consultant not following process, it was a role cancelled at the last minute or issues getting salaries signed off. Fire fighting is something that is often talked about, but at times, it was a raging inferno and all I had was a garden hose!

Saying all this, I certainly felt valued in my role and felt a part of the HR team. Though my particular role was lonely at times (I would find myself calling recruiters on my PSL for a chat!), I did feel I was making a difference and that I was supporting the business move forward. With an outsider’s point of view, I felt I brought a commerciality to the role and certainly improved the process. So, why did I leave? Something was missing and ultimately it was this that led me back to the shark infested waters of agency recruitment.

What I missed most was the variety offered by working with both client and candidate. I admit, I may have been unlucky with my move in-house as I am sure there are many of you who have the variety I craved. But, as agency recruiters we build relationships on both sides and I really missed this. I missed updating with people to understand how they were doing, helping to shape their careers and offering advice. I missed talking about the wider market with clients, understanding their challenges and looking to help where I can. I also missed the commercial aspect. Reading an article in the press, keen to share that with my network and add some value.

My role now is more varied than ever before, and this is down to the fact I worked in-house. I’m involved in assessment centre design, CV re-writing and job profiling, something I wasn’t in the position to do before making the move. Previously I was in the rut of filing jobs, and didn’t really view recruitment as anything more than that. I feel I now work better with clients, and understand their frustrations and demands. I am certainly treated better – like I still have the old school tie!

By performing both roles I can understand what role is better suited to me, what plays to my strengths. More importantly I was able to join a firm that mirrored my values and beliefs.  I am sure the tag ‘failed recruiter’ sticks with many  in-house people after moving on from an agency because they end up treating recruiters how they were treated.  NOT ALL AGENCIES ARE THE SAME!  It’s not all about sales targets, and constant no finish line mentality. I am sure if more in-house recruiters thought about moving back over the fence the market would be all the better for it. You can still work with clients as if you were part of their HR team, and you can add real value to a business and make a difference – you just need to find the right agency for you. Have a look around, you never know, you might be tempted back to the dark side!

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

Following on from my recent blog on what to expect from your recruitment consultant, I have had a number of people asking for advice about how to gauge whether their consultant really knows what they are talking about. As I have said before, I get very frustrated by the fact that our industry is largely unregulated and that the very poor practice of a minority of consultants damage the image of the industry for all. The questions below will hopefully give you some insight into the competence of the consultant and whether they are someone you should be trusting to handle your career. The first group of questions below are appropriate when you first register with the consultant and the later questions are more suitable when discussing a specific assignment.

  • Who are your major clients and how long have you been recruiting for them?

It is important to understand a consultant’s client base for a number of reasons. Firstly, it will allow you to assess the extent to which they might be successful in placing you and the relevance of their clients to your sector and experience. Secondly, it will give you a real insight in to how strong their network is within your sector. Equally important is getting an understanding of the length of time they have recruited for their clients. Long established and successful client relationships will give you a good indication that they deliver for their clients and are therefore likely to deliver for you.

  • What is your background?

In an ideal world your specialist recruiter will have relevant industry experience. If they have personally worked in the sector and even held similar roles to those they are recruiting, then some would argue this will make them a more effective recruiter as they will be able to empathise with the challenges presented in those positions.  However, it is not essential they have relevant sector experience, there are certainly many great recruiters out there who don’t. What the best recruiters will have however is in-depth knowledge of their sector which they will maintain with constant research. What is most important is how they manage the recruitment process and the value they are able to add to you through their knowledge of the client, the role and the hiring manager, all of which will hopefully give you a competitive edge over your competition.

  • How long have you been in recruitment?

This may not be a question you need to ask but it is certainly information you would be wise to check on LinkedIn. While it is not essential that the consultant has multiple years of experience, you should check their experience in recruitment and the wider industry to understand their true knowledge. Ultimately you are interested in how well networked they are in your “space” as this will be a major factor in their ability to place you in a position.

  • What can I expect from you?

Recruitment consultants get a lot of bad press and more often than not deservedly so. Many of the complaints concern levels of communication and mis-management of expectations. Often what is lacking is some honesty and transparency. This is a great question to ask your consultant and should not only give you an understanding of what to expect but also an insight into the honesty of the individual and how they conduct themselves. Be wary of consultants that promise the world – it’s a tough market out there!

  • How many recruitment companies have you worked for?

This may be quite a challenging or controversial question and is one probably best answered using the power of LinkedIn. In the workplace today people often move on more frequently than in the past as they look to progress their careers and develop. However, recruitment is a very results driven industry and one where failure to deliver will often result in the consultant moving on. The track record of your consultant again will give you an insight into how they perform and what they are likely to deliver for you.

  • Have you got any feedback on my CV?

The consultant should be adding value to you in a number of different areas. This should include areas like your CV, interview technique, industry knowledge etc. A great consultant will have a long term view and will understand that time spent improving your CV and interviewing technique will not only increase their chances of placing you but will also help develop a long term relationship.

  • Have you placed with the business previously?

This is a great question to ask a consultant when they are briefing you on a particular assignment. A great consultant should be able to add significant value to the recruitment process and utilise their knowledge of the business to assist you through each stage. There is a first time for everything but a consultant with experience and knowledge of client will be able to assist you to a much greater extent during the recruitment process. They will also have knowledge of the company culture and be able to advise what the company is really like to work for. Also, experience of having successful placed people will have built their understanding of exactly what the client is looking for and so they are less likely to be wasting your time with inappropriate assignments.

  • Have you met the Line Manager?

This is a great question to ask a consultant as again this indicates the depth of the consultant’s relationship with the client. For the reasons discussed above, as a candidate you should benefit considerably from the knowledge and experience the consultant has of their client.

  • What is the recruitment process

Your consultant should be able to advise you in advance of the recruitment process, the stages you will need to go through and what preparation should be done. The market is fiercely competitive and better preparation and knowledge can help you differentiate yourself against other candidates. While not every process is pre-planned, most of the big corporates use a specific template. Your consultant should be able to provide you with a job description, information on the competencies being assessed and potential ‘quirks’ within the process.

  • What should I do to develop my career in XXXX?

A good consultant should be able and happy to provide you with strong career advice. Consultants are experts in their field and are likely to have some sound advice and suggestions about your career plan and how you can maximise your potential. There is nothing wrong in asking their advice and their response will give you a good insight into their knowledge and experience.

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

Keeping the magic alive: how to nurture the relationship with your recruitment agency partner.

So you’ve been together a while. Although the initial frisson of excitement you experienced when you first met has dissipated, you are faithful to them (for the most part) and they have really met your needs. They know you better than anyone – even better than you know yourself sometimes – you trust them to give you honest advice. Your relationship has settled into comfortable companionship.

And then…you stop communicating as much (“there just never seems to be enough time”), you both start taking your relationship for granted and before you know it, the spark has gone out. You are left feeling, well….dissatisfied.

No, I’m not moonlighting as a marriage counsellor; I’m talking about the tenuous relationship between you, the Client and your recruitment agency partner! Given that it can be so hard to find a recruitment agency that you like and that can actually deliver for you (let’s face it, you have to kiss a lot of frogs…), it is worth both sides making the effort to make it work.

So what can you do to ensure you get the best out of your preferred agency and don’t have to go back on the market?

Spend some quality time

It is often the case that you meet an agency initially to establish the relationship and rarely feel the need (or have the time) to follow this up with regular meetings. As an in-house recruiter or hiring manager, you will be constantly asked by new agencies if they can meet you to introduce themselves in the hope that you are sufficiently convinced to give them a go. There is no question that looking at the ‘whites of someone’s eyes’ will tell you more than any glossy website about how they operate – values like empathy and integrity and ultimately how they will be representing your brand in the marketplace. However with the best will in the world, your packed diary will mean it is near impossible to meet on an ad hoc basis unless you are actively looking to brief new agencies with work.

However, there are some really good reasons why it is worth investing time in update meetings with your existing agencies. Firstly, it reaffirms your commitment to the partnership. You are saying “this is more than just a transactional relationship. I am investing time in you as a trusted supplier so you understand the needs of the business. In return I will expect you to deliver results”. Secondly, it will move your relationship forward. It is incredibly hard to build a strong, intuitive relationship over the phone. Face to face meetings tend to facilitate more open and frank discussions. This can be useful to you if you need to renegotiate terms or deliver a sensitive or confidential assignment. It also builds trust on both sides which ultimately makes for better results.

An update meeting is also a great way to ‘refresh’ a brief for an on-going assignment. The fundamentals of the vacancies may not have changed however, chances are the consultant will have been working on it for a while and, particularly if you have struggled to provide detailed feedback on rejected CVs; they may have lost their initial momentum. By meeting the agency again to let them know what the business is now focusing on and what profiles are likely to work best, you will renew their enthusiasm to attack the assignment with new vigour and also increase the likelihood of you both getting a result.

Keep talking

As an in-house recruiter, you can find yourselves in difficult situations and under intense pressure. You are at the whim of the wider strategic decisions taken by your company which inevitably affect recruitment: restructures, redundancies, new store openings, new business wins. All of these will affect your job flow in a positive or negative way leaving you to adapt accordingly. When recruiting directly, you will need to inform your own candidates of any change in order to protect the candidate experience and the employer brand. When using agencies, you will need to inform them of cancelled vacancies, delayed processes and changes of brief. This can be really difficult, particularly when you know an agency has been working hard for you over often a significant period of time. You also have to manage the expectations (realistic or otherwise) of your hiring managers and will need to educate them about the challenges and opportunities presented by the current recruitment market. Being able to influence internally is one of the challenges faced by in-house recruiters and one which is often under-estimated by those on the agency side. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved and by communicating issues you are facing internally, your agencies will at least understand the context of decisions and be able to communicate these to candidates in an appropriate way. One thing a good consultant responds to is open communication – even if it means that they won’t make their fee, being informed will help them deal with pressure on their side. This is also an interesting test of an agency’s commitment to your business. If they have a tantrum when faced with a cancelled brief or rejected candidate and never call you again, this tells you all you need to know.

To err is human, to forgive divine

However strong the relationship and however well the agency has performed so far, you can bet your bottom dollar that at some point, a mistake will be made. Recruitment is a sensitive business and this, combined with the pressure many consultants work under and the time restraints imposed, mean that errors do occur. Chances are it will be unconsciously done or a simple case of human error and of course, it depends on what the consequences are, however it is rash for a simple mistake to wipe out the positive history you have together. This works both ways and the agency should be equally magnanimous if the mistake is made on your side.

Push the right buttons

Knowing how recruitment agencies work, how consultants are managed and what therefore motivates them will help you get the best from them. They will have a range of vacancies to work on and the truth is that they will focus on those vacancies that give them the best return – this may mean ease of fill or revenue. That said, when there is a positive relationship with a client, most consultants will genuinely want to help you. However, when negotiating terms and conditions, it is naïve to think that you will get the best result if the role is non-exclusive and at rock bottom fee rates, irrespective of how strong the relationship. It’s about making a commitment on both sides and, by ensuring that the agency has an incentive to prioritise your vacancy, you will get the result you want. When cost is an issue as is so often the case, give a period of exclusivity. Commit to interview dates in advance or facilitate a meeting with the hiring manager so the briefing is thorough. Remember, when working on a contingency basis, the agency will only get paid if they get a result.

A gentle stroke…

Real recruitment industry professionals want to be successful. This isn’t just about making as much revenue as possible (yes, let’s be completely frank – we need to make money, just like everyone else!) but it is also about feeling that we have supported our clients. That, because we did our jobs well, your job and that of your hiring manager will be just a little easier. Most of us are genuinely passionate about our clients’ businesses – we learn a lot about you and spend a lot of time selling your business to the wider community so we actually get a real sense of satisfaction from placing someone with you. Getting acknowledgment of a job well done is also an effective way of rewarding loyalty amongst your supplier base.

Honesty is the best policy

If you are really not happy, then let your agency know. So often, relationships break down because of a misunderstanding or an assumption made on either side. Most people would agree that the worst thing is not knowing – if we know what we have done wrong or what you aren’t sure about, we can try to fix the problem. Recruitment people are very think skinned – we can take it!

Tie the knot

Working on a retained or project basis is another effective way to get results. By paying a proportion of the fee up front, you are paying the agency for the work they are doing along the process – particularly important if you need them to add greater value by conducting detailed screening interviews or if a full search methodology is required. The total fee paid is the same, however by agreeing to work in this way, both sides are demonstrating their commitment to filling the role. The pressure is very much on the agency to deliver. Furthermore, I always found the biggest benefit of this approach was only having to talk to one consultant about a particular vacancy – no multiple briefing, update or feedback calls required!

I would be interested to know about the best agency relationships you have and what makes them work?

I wonder what the longest lasting client/agency relationship is in the industry?

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Previous Blogs from Sophie Mackenzie on in-house recruitment:

How to win the heart of an in-house recruiter

Leaving the dark side – How agency experience benefits the in-house recruiter

How to build your influence in an in-house recruitment role



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


For those of you who are as yet unaware of, it is a US based site whose aim is to create a community providing a source of information about prospective employers, job roles and salaries based on anonymous reviews from employees. They have recently launched their UK site, .

The format of each review comprises Pros and Cons and Advice to Senior Management along with star ratings given for the following criteria: Compensations & Benefits, Culture & Values, Career Opportunities, Senior Leadership, Work/Life Balance and CEO Rating.

It is a simple format and undoubtedly can prove a useful resource when researching companies or preparing for interviews.

Under each company profile, it includes a Recent News section which is useful for ensuring you are up to date with latest Press Releases, results or general news.

Understandably, the large, global businesses have the most reviews (often in their thousands) with some sectors being more broadly represented than others, particularly the Management Consultancies, Technology companies and Financial Services. I would guess therefore that reviews on these businesses are a pretty accurate reflection of working life within those companies.

Within Retail, the major UK brands are represented although many have a limited numbers of reviews – I’m sure this will change as more people in the UK become aware of its existence. Until there is a significant body of material on each company, I think it will be a while before it provides enough insight to accurately reflect what it is like to work for a particular company.

In their Community Guidelines, glassdoor are clear that participants should write balanced reviews without reverting to bitter or overly personal accounts of their own experience. Reviewers must be current or former employees of that business within the past 3 years and so there is reason to assume that the integrity of the reviews is good.

As always with reviews, you must take each contribution in context and look at the overall theme which emerges from a number of reviews. Other factors to bear in mind are the level of the person reviewing (junior candidates will have a different perspective than senior managers although their opinion is no less insightful or valid). Equally with the Interview section, where people provide sample interview questions and insight into their application process, it is wise to be cautious. Interview processes can change and your preparation still needs to be thorough enough to deal with any unforeseen eventualities.

We are all becoming increasingly reliant on reviews whether that is before booking a holiday or buying something and they can be an incredibly powerful tool. Recently, before leaving on holiday, I accidentally stumbled upon some Tripadvisor reviews on my destination. They were so bad that I was tempted to cancel, however I kept an open mind and sure enough, I had a lovely time albeit with my eyes wide open and expecting the worst! With something as important as your career, the more research you can do the better, and as long as you keep an open mind, should prove to be a useful addition to your ‘career toolbox’.

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How to avoid joining the wrong business

8 great smartphone apps to support candidates in their job search

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

Having just enjoyed four days off with my family and friends, I was struck by a conversation this morning with a candidate who had worked all four days and was bemoaning his lack of work/life balance. What interested me most was his attitude and reasoning. His perception was based around the view that he simply can’t afford a work/life balance – that if he isn’t prepared to put in the hours then someone else is and that the expectation of his employer was to work that hard. He genuinely felt he had no choice.

But is it true, can any of us afford a work/life balance in today’s world?

What does it mean to you?

Firstly work/life balance is very difficult to define as it certainly means different things to different people. In reality, a balance to one person is an in-balance to another and an individual’s perception of this is likely to change over time as they go through the cycle of life. Interestingly, studies suggest that peoples’ perception of excessive work is to some extent governed by their enjoyment and satisfaction. Therefore, if you enjoy your job, you will enjoy working hard. Despite this, I think for everyone there are points where it is felt to be excessive.

However, we had a very lively debate in the office and some of my colleagues argued that for some individuals, career is everything and that they really are not interested in a work/life balance but only in career advancement and progression. We also discussed the fact that it changes considerably during your life, for example, starting a family was a major factor that affected your view on balance. Companies should understand that individuals may be in a slightly different gear career wise during their life phases and think about how they can get the most out of them. Indeed, people in their 20’s may be more focused on their career as they have little family responsibility…conversely, they may be less focused if they have a heavy social life which impacts on their work!

Take control

What was also debated is that actually it is also about life/work balance because to feel that a balance exists, individuals need a sense of fulfilment from their role. Too much life balance against work can for some people reduce personal or emotional fulfilment and the sense of purpose they require. Working hard can be very powerful. When surrounded by people of equal capability it is one clear way to differentiate you and achieve the progression and reward you desire.

It is all about delivery

In most companies and in most cultures, it is often not about how hard you work but what you deliver. That old adage of ‘work smarter not harder’ is certainly true. I often think for individuals it is easy to get sucked into a pattern of working very hard but without taking the time to reflect on how you are going about your role and whether you are actually being efficient with your time. A big factor at play here is peer pressure – often people work unnecessarily long hours because everyone else does. You need to be courageous to break away from the pack (and this is easier to do if you have the results to prove you are more effective in fewer hours!) That said, I think we all acknowledge that expectations on individuals have without doubt risen over the last few years and so sometimes you have to work very hard and long hours to get the job done.

It’s personal

I genuinely believe that many of us focus on our employers when it comes to work/life balance and don’t look in the mirror at ourselves. What is stopping you from being more effective?

How do you need to develop in order to be more efficient and effective at your job? How can you change the way you approach your role in order to deliver more in less time? As we all acknowledge it is often difficult to analyse what we could be doing differently, however in doing so, you will definitely give yourself the opportunity to achieve a better work/life balance.

Decide what is important to you

So many people desire a greater balance in their life between work and home but how realistic is it? Can you really have your cake and eat it. Fundamentally, at whatever stage you are in your life or career, you need to decide what is important to you. For some people they may be able to have it all – maybe this is because of their occupation, maybe it is due to the attitude of their employer and maybe it is because they are prepared to make a greater compromise. Whatever the case, it is down to the individual to look at what factors they can change and ultimately for them to make the decision that is right for their life. Utopia may be out there but for the majority of us it is very difficult to achieve despite the changing times in which we live.

Times are changing

Times are changing but I am still not sure in which direction. On the one hand, many businesses are looking at how they can enable individuals to work more flexibly and often remotely thereby giving more autonomy to the individual about when the work gets done. However, for many the very technology (smart phones, broadband etc) that is supposed to give us more flexibility, actually generates a considerable deterioration in work/life balance, as we are constantly available to our employer. This gives us very little time, if any, to switch off and allows employers to place a greater demand on our time either wittingly or unwittingly.

For Generation Y it is important that companies change their cultures to try and create better work/life balance. However, the juxtaposition is that as a result of the recession, people have to work harder than ever. In many organisations, reduced head counts have led to much higher work loads for the surviving workers. In addition, there is additional pressure because if you don’t deliver or are seen to be working hard; you face very stiff competition from both external and internal individuals.

So what can you do to achieve a better work/life balance?

  • Analyse your efficiency– consider how efficient you are in your role and what steps and actions can you take to improve your efficiency. There are several things you can do to assess your position, with the simplest being the use of a 360 feedback survey. Feedback from line managers, colleagues and your own team will enable you to spot some opportunities to reduce unnecessary workload. Alternatively, you may find you need to improve your technical skills through specific training and development – ask for support from your HR team.
  • Set targets and objectives; work smarter not harder – think about why you are working the hours you do. Is it really required in order to hit your targets or is it because that’s what you feel you should do? Work the hours required to over deliver but not just for the sake of it.
  • Manage your use of Technology – it is here more than anywhere where you need to take control, set some clear parameters and ensure you have a sensible balance. Does your phone always need to be on? Do you really need to check your e-mail every 10 minutes? Make use of your out of office and consider whether to have a separate telephone for personal use.

I am sure there are dozens of other examples and I would be very interested to hear your views.

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