Category: Job Board


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

I have always been a big fan of Maslow (click here to learn more) and despite modern Psychological doctrine having exposed flaws in this theory of motivation I cannot help but feel that it has a great deal of relevance to how many candidates manage their job search today. I believe that the recession has fundamentally changed how many candidates view their future job selection and crucially what is most important. Having spoken to a number of colleagues within recruitment, and admittedly this evidence is purely anecdotal; we have seen a very real shift towards a ‘hierarchy of needs.’

Having spoken to many hundreds if not thousands of candidates over the course of the recession the first question that the majority of candidates will ask is; does it pay enough? Interestingly, prior to the recession the same question was probably being asked with a slightly different emphasis; how much can I earn? The key difference is that candidates are now focused on whether the salary will cover their costs rather than enabling them to invest. Arguably, it amounts to the same thing but it does indicate a rather different mind-set. I have found that salary has acted as a much smaller ‘barrier to entry’ than prior to the recession when candidates were more focused on achieving a significant uplift in package rather than merely covering their costs.

The second most important element is Job Security. Prior to 2008 the majority of candidates barely talked about security. Unsurprisingly, and against a backdrop of numerous business collapses this has become the second most important criteria.

The third element that most candidates will tend to want to judge is their cultural fit. One key consequence of the recession is that many people have taken jobs under duress (whether that is financial or emotional) that they might not otherwise have done so. Often, these individuals have been perfectly capable of doing the job but for whatever reason have not been a good cultural fit. In the early to mid part of the recession that led to further turnover and as a result, increased anxiety in the market.

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These first three elements, in blue in my pyramid, are I feel the most essential for candidates today. The next two elements tend to be asked by fewer candidates but interestingly they are perhaps the most important for future financial, intellectual and emotional prosperity.

The fourth element is a two way street! Will I be valued and will I value them (employer & colleagues)? Many candidates tend not to think about this prior to accepting an offer as the first three elements can often be all consuming in importance. However, this will often determine the longevity of the role. It has a particular relevance for Gen Y candidates whom often place this as a key requirement for future positions.

The final element, the famous ‘self-actualisation,’ in my pyramid is; will I grow?

Many candidates will ask what the opportunities for progression are but I think they are missing an opportunity here. In truth most companies will, during a hiring process, indicate there is room for progression without committing to anything specific. The more savvy candidates will ascertain what the company does to ‘grow’ their people. What is the performance review process, what support and development is there, do they even have an L&D team post recession, how much money are they prepared to spend on external education?

So what does this mean for recruiters? The way in which we attract candidates through technology and social media continues to evolve at a dramatic rate.  I believe that most candidates seek to satisfy the first three elements early in their job search with the further two elements being a focus further in to an interview process. Given the lack of confidence in the current jobs market it has become crucial that employers and their recruiters seek to address these basic needs early in any recruitment campaign. A failure to do so will only serve to reduce the pool of available talent!

NB: You will note that I haven’t placed any emphasis on whether candidates question their level of capability / competence to do the job. The reason behind this is that I believe most candidates have a much higher level of self-confidence in today’s market and to some extent rely upon the employer’s ability to select on capability.

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

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Shane Horn – Senior Partner, AdMore Recruitment

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.

 Shane Horn

 

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

 

You are out of work, made redundant after spending the best years of your life working your way up the career ladder. The pay out is good, but won’t last forever. You have taken some time-out to ‘re-charge the batteries,’ the summer of sport is over  and the September transfer window has been and gone. Time to get out there and find that dream job. But hold on, the phone isn’t ringing. The jobs don’t seem to be out there, only those that don’t really appeal.  However,  you need to get back into work. Better to be in work than out of it, right?

This is a dilemma we discuss a great deal in the office, both  with clients or candidates and it is a very tough call. As the market picks up, it is a problem that more and more people will face. So, do you stick or twist?

Unfortunately, there is no right answer; it will depend on your personal circumstances. However, there are some factors to take into account. As you become a little more flexible in what you are looking for, you will get interviews. You interview well, and the process moves forwards, but there is a nagging doubt in the back of your mind. Is this the role you see yourself doing?

Firstly, as a candidate you are in control of the process as much as the client. When the offer comes, don’t feel bullied into accepting. Take your time; if you have other options consider them. A good hiring manager/recruiter will be fully aware of your situation and will not put undue pressure on you. If it is the right business they will understand it has to be the right move for you. If you do feel you are being boxed into a corner, ask why?  Why do they need a decision today? Why do they need you to start Monday? There maybe a valid reason which, again, a hiring manager would explain. However, if the pressure is coming to accept within a short time frame then question if you are the best hire or are you just a ‘filling a gap’.

Secondly, how will the move look on your CV? Consider how the role will be perceived by future employers. If you take a drop from say, Regional Manager to Area Manager, it could well pigeon hole you for future roles. Take a look at our blog is the recession creating a lost generation of middle management in retail for more detail on this. If the role can offer you progression and stretch then it must be considered as an option. Client side, we hear a great deal of feedback stating that the candidate was ‘too senior’ or ‘would leave when the market picks up.’ Personally, I would prefer a Premiership- standard right back playing for my team rather than a Conference League one! Let’s not underestimate how difficult it is to find employment. It is a process that most people don’t enjoy! If the business is the right one and they delivered on all they spoke about while courting you, then you would have no reason to look elsewhere, would you?

Do your research. Can the company back up what is says?  A quick check on Linkedin will give you an idea of how many present employees are at your level (and also tell you how many are looking for ‘opportunities!’)

What if you do accept the offer and it doesn’t work out? Do you really want to be going through the recruitment process again? Contacting recruitment agencies, picking up with your Linkedin contacts, sifting through the job boards? No, you don’t. It’s a pain, and one that not many people enjoy. After all, who wants to be talking to recruitment consultants all day?!  Do consider the impact this could have on your CV. One or two short term career moves are acceptable, any more than that can put off potential employers.

Finally, and most importantly, you may just need to be back earning a salary. Do your sums, work out when you need to be back in employment. A recruitment process can typically take anywhere from 3 weeks to 4 months! If you do turn down the first offer, make sure you have weighed up all the options. The market is not as bad as you think. Good clients are still hiring good people. The first offer you get maybe your dream job, but if it isn’t, don’t accept what could potentially be a damaging move.

Shane Horn

 

An ‘employer of choice’ can easily be described as one that inspires talented workers to join them and to stay with them. However, it is often difficult to ascertain whether a potential employer is one that fits this definition when you are considering a career move. There are a number of lists, awards and websites dedicated to sharing best companies to work for however there are of course many other companies that offer excellent opportunities. Here are a few points to consider when looking for your own ‘Employer of choice.’

Research the business

It is worth looking at the basics; the company mission and values. Does this match up with press statements and reviews? Talk to people in your network, what do they think? Look at awards and honours that the company has received that are linked to their ‘employer brand.’

Utilise your recruitment consultant
Recruitment consultants gather intimate knowledge of their clients’ organisational culture and values, company structure, career opportunities available, employee benefits and employment details. By working more closely with your consultant you will be able to access this knowledge. It is worth asking some specific questions:

  • How has the career of the person currently doing the position developed
  • What internal or external training is offered?
  • How would they describe the management/leadership style within the company?
  • Is the package on offer competitive with market rate?

Interviews – a two way process

This is a great opportunity for you to assess your potential line manager. It is worth trying to establish how well defined the company culture is and how this manifests itself.

  • How are employees’ contributions valued?
  • What career progression is available and is there a structured approach to succession planning?
  • How is the L&D function valued within the organisation and how does the business interact with its customers and environment?
  • Does the interviewer’s style match what you have researched?
  • What is the quality of working relationships, how do different functions interact with each other?
  • How much TRUST is there in the organisation? Are people trusted to do a good job? You can assess this by looking for signs of; openness (give and ask for feedback), honesty (what I say is what I mean), reliability (I will do what I promise to do) and acceptance.
  • Pay close attention to the environment, is the building cared for? Does the working environment provoke a positive feeling?

What is most important to you?

The reality is that few businesses will be able to deliver everything perfectly. Therefore it is worth putting a list together of what is important to you. Prioritise the key points and use this to guide you when assessing whether you wish to make an application or accept an offer.

Have we missed anything out? What would be on your list to understand what for you makes an ‘employer of choice’

Far from being a passive way of looking for a new job, getting the most out of working with a recruitment agency requires input from the candidate’s side too. Agencies will give you access to industry knowledge, market information and jobs that aren’t advertised directly, as well as support and advice with your general career management. We have included some generic advice here in relation to what to do and what not to do to enable a recruitment agency to assist you in the most effective and efficient way.

  • Send an email and ideally include the reference number of the role that you are applying for.
  • Keep your CV format simple, ideally using ‘Word’, so that the recruitment agency can upload it into their system easily. If suggestions are made around improving your CV then take the feedback on board and make the amendments.
  • Have a short summary of what skills you have that make you marketable, what achievements you have that make you stand out from your peer group and be very clear about what type of role you want.
  • You should also be flexible. A good recruiter will suggest roles that you hadn’t thought about and that could be ideal for you, while remaining in the parameters that you have originally stipulated.
  • Rapport with a recruitment agency is paramount and requires effort and input from both parties. Be honest at all times in terms of your background and your activity levels when looking for a new role.
  • Keep your key contacts updated on your progress in the market but don’t be overly persistent in terms of frequency of contact. Good recruiters repay loyalty with loyalty and will put you forward for their best opportunities. Look on your consultant as a career partner, not just an agent.
  • How you handle your job search is a key indicator of your organisational skills and your planning ability. It is absolutely critical that you keep control of your CV at all times. You must keep a record of which companies you have applied to directly or through an agency and when that application was made to ensure that no duplicate applications are made
  • Never let an agency send your CV to a company without them telling you who that company is or without signing a Non Disclosure Agreement first.
  • No matter how keen you are to move on in your career, try not to register with multiple agencies that you do not know or trust at once. Most big employers are currently placing vacancies with more than one agency, as they feel that creating competition between agencies in the same sector will give them a better result. This creates the opportunity for you to be put forward for the same jobs by several recruiters if you are not controlling your CV. Employers will be concerned if they receive your details from multiple agencies.
  • Respond promptly to any communications and check your email as well as your phone. This can sometimes be tricky if you’re still employed elsewhere but let the agency know the best times to contact you and always be available then. Unfortunately the right career move can be like waiting for buses – nothing for ages and then several roles come along at once. It is then often a case of the client being under pressure to fill the vacancy quickly, meaning you need to be in a position to respond when needed.
  • Research thoroughly before any interviews, the company, the role and the type of person that they are looking for. Remember that you are not only representing you but the agency as well and that what you do and say is a direct reflection of both.
  • Call the recruiter after any interviews to give feedback on how you view the opportunity. Remember, the more specific the feedback then the easier it is for the agency to represent you and your interests.
  • Keep in contact if things change on your side and let the agency know straight away. For example, you have an offer or employment or you’ve decided to change your search parameters for example by moving house or area.
  • In summary, show that you value the service that your recruitment consultant is giving you and be a good ambassador for them whenever they introduce you to one of their clients. If recruitment agencies have doubts about how well you will perform in an interview, they will be reluctant to introduce you to their client
  • Remember that a recruiter needs to place the right people in the right roles to get paid, so it’s in their interests to overcome any objections the employer may have. For this reason, don’t try to disguise or cover up your situation if there are historical work issues that may cause problems with a new employer. Good recruitment consultants will have a number of years experience in the market and will know when things are not quite right. Your best hope is to be scrupulously honest, no matter how difficult, and let the agent handle things with the employer.
  • Most importantly, if there is anything else that you obviously should be telling the recruiter, don’t wait to be asked. Never leave the recruiter in the position of having to say: ‘I don’t know’ to their client.

It does take time to build up trust with a recruiter and it is a two way relationship. Pay attention to your instincts. If you feel that a recruitment agency is not putting you forward for enough vacancies, or is putting you forward for jobs that don’t seem to match your criteria, question them. Let them see that you are fully engaged and that you expect them to live up to your standard.

For more detailed information please visit our career centre

Good luck with your career move.

Russell Adams

As an agency recruiter for 6 years, I thought I knew a fair bit about recruitment and I admit, I shared many of my colleagues’ frustrations about the role of the In-House Recruiter: difficult to contact, process driven rather than commercial, a barrier to building relationships with Line Managers.  It was only when I made the move to an In-House role myself that my eyes were opened – so many things made sense and I couldn’t help but think “if I only knew then what I know now”!

As in all relationships, there are two sides to every story – for what it’s worth, here’s my view on how to build a fulfilling client relationship.

Plenty more fish in the sea:

The number of recruitment agencies operating in the UK is staggering. Many  are mediocre at best but many are excellent. The In-House recruiter is literally spoilt for choice – if one agency fails to deliver, they can easily give a new agency a try or brief one of their other proven partners. The only differentiating factor is the service you deliver. This isn’t just about providing candidates for the vacancy (candidates are rarely exclusive to one agency and most are easily accessible on Linkedin, providing there is the time for a direct search). What they want is a Consultant with a professional and genuine approach, who respects the process and can source the best candidates in the market which they themselves will struggle to find.

Size really doesn’t matter!

Take heart, boutique agencies everywhere! The days of winning business by flaunting the size of your, ahem, database and the number of national offices is long gone. In my experience, size rarely influenced my decision about which agency to engage. My most successful working relationships were with smaller agencies who were true specialists in their sector, had genuine networks and who really wanted our business. They also had the added benefit that I could work with the same person on each assignment without being referred to another office depending on the geography of the role. Consultants were often experienced with a mature approach and so conversations were direct, open and honest and any issues were solved quickly with the long term relationship in mind.

Play by the rules:

If the client asks you to upload CVs onto their portal, just do it. Love or hate these ATS systems (a view often shared by the in-house teams themselves), they ultimately enable you to stake your claim on a candidate. Most in-house recruiters will operate a first-come, first-served policy when it comes to duplicate applications. Yes, it will take longer than flinging a CV on an email and will require adding extra supporting info on your candidate (but shouldn’t you have this info to hand anyway?). By not following the process, you cause extra hassle for your client and to put it bluntly, for every agency that doesn’t use the system, there are plenty that will. Enough said.

Compromise:

Nobody’s perfect. I found myself on several occasions giving inadequate interview feedback, cancelling interviews at short notice and putting whole processes on hold for months on end – the very things that I had complained about when on the agency side. Even the most professional companies will make mistakes and let you down; such is the nature of recruitment on both sides of the fence. I really valued the consultants who would take this on the chin and move forward. I relied on them to communicate positive messages to the external market and as a result I was confident that our brand was protected. Consequently, I had real trust in those agencies and would fight their corner internally to ensure they were briefed on vacancies in the future – often on an exclusive or retained basis.

Communication:

The volume of emails can be crazy so if you don’t receive an immediate response from your client, bear with them. Make emails as clear as possible, get to the point and be courteous. An email sent in frustration with a tone to match will not be well received and will certainly never be forgotten. Also, make sure your auto-signature appears on each message, including on replies. Keep file sizes low if possible.

The Blind Date:

A good in-house recruiter will be open to strong speculative CVs providing they are sent to them in the first instance and providing they are pre-qualified by the agency (a well written email to accompany the CV is easier to forward internally).  Equally, they will be unlikely to respond well to unsuitable, blanket ‘specs’ sent with the aim of hitting the target stats for the week (I was monumentally unimpressed by an agency who sent 16, yes 16, spec CVs on one email, causing my Outlook to reach it’s limit at 5pm on a Friday afternoon when I was about to send my weekly reports!). There is nothing more likely to induce a “Dear John” email or a black mark on the PSL than indiscriminate speculative approaches.

Honesty:

The best agencies will be honest about what they can and can’t do.  Your client should respect you for turning down work if you genuinely feel you can’t do it justice – this will save everyone’s time and build confidence that when you do accept a brief, you will deliver a result.

Empathise:

Any decent agency trains their consultants to show empathy with their candidates, encouraging them to understand their motivations and uncover their reservations in order to build the relationship and make the process easier when it comes to landing an offer. Rarely however do they talk about empathy with clients. Until I did the role, I had no idea about the challenges faced by in-house recruitment teams. There is pressure from all sides: demanding Line Managers, HR Directors (often with different agendas to the hiring managers), internal politics, existing agencies and new agencies trying to get access to roles, administrative duties and the practicalities of managing email inboxes which frankly beggar belief. And that’s before they even start recruiting directly to reduce costs and increase the ROI for recruitment systems and Linkedin Recruiter licences.

Clearly, while the in-House Recruiter remains pressured in this way, they will rely on their trusted agencies to support them however, having an understanding of the politics and bureaucracy that often accompanies the role will enable you to offer the supportive service required.

Making a commitment:

So many agencies are purely transactional. They are only interested in specific briefs and when the going gets tough, they move on to work ‘closer to the fee’ with clients who will move quicker.  I understand the commercial pressures for an agency consultant however by taking a long term view and sticking with your client through thick and thin (recruitment freezes, restructures and cancelled vacancies) you will really stand out from the crowd. Often the in-house recruiter is as frustrated as you by these setbacks and will really appreciate the agencies that stay in contact when things are quiet. Undoubtedly, when things pick up again, you will be the first person they call.

So there you have it – if I think back to the agencies I really rated during my time In-House they all had one thing in common – they kept it simple, did the basics well and delivered quality not quantity – surely the key to a long lasting and mutually satisfying relationship!
Sophie Mackenzie

Having recently written a blog about the retail recruitment market I am now turning my attention to the hospitality sector to see whether the market is as tough for candidates looking to find new roles.

As in the retail sector, I think most candidates are often pleasantly surprised when they first come onto the market to find another position, by the volume of roles that appear to be out available matching their skills and experience.  However as has been highlighted in the recent Hospitality Employment Index statistics provided by the Caterer.com and People 1st, the competition for these roles is higher than ever.

I am afraid to say that on the surface the statistics do not make encouraging reading. The number of overall vacancies is down some 8% compared to last year and in some categories such as management roles in the restaurant sector they are down a massive 45%.  Unfortunately the competition for roles has also increased with the number of applications only falling by 2% during the same period.

However, as always we should try and put some perspective on these headline grabbing figures.  What the statistics show is that the current job volumes are some 30% higher than in 2009. To some extent during the recession we have seen a much stronger focus on retention and development in the sector. This may be an additional factor in explaining the underlying statistics. As always these statistics only show part of the picture and just reflect the volume (and level) of roles posted on the job board.

Looking at the performance of some of the key players in the market, despite the miserable weather and conflicting expectations brought by the Olympics, the market has held up well.  Looking at recent announcements, Greene King reported a like-for-like sales increase of 5.1%, Mitchells and Butler LFL of 3% and The Restaurant Group LFL of 3.25%. As always there are winners and losers however with continued growth in some areas of the market the need for high calibre individuals remains strong.

As we all know, the hospitality sector is all about people and being able to inspire, lead and motivate teams to deliver great product and great service. Many businesses continue to invest in retaining and recruiting the best people to drive and maintain that competitive edge. Being focused on recruiting middle and senior appointments we have seen strong demand for individuals since the end of the summer and are watching with interest to see how the market unfolds over the coming months.

As has been the case over the last couple of years it continues to be difficult for candidates to secure positions in different sectors, so my advice to candidates is to look at businesses where your skills and experience will be most transferable.  The expectations of clients is rightly very high as they look to drive their business by hiring candidates with experience and a strong track record of success.

Without a shadow of doubt for the vast majority of middle and senior management candidates the market out there remains tough. However, whilst the job board figures are certainly negative, as we come out of recession, the market will inevitably pick up.

Russell Adams

LinkedIn

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AdMore Recruitment – Sophie Mackenzie

They say doctors make the worst patients – is the same true for ex-agency consultants who move in-house? Sometimes, certainly. Take a recent case when one of my colleagues drove to the other end of the country (a 5 hour drive) for a client meeting scheduled at 4pm. This was a new client, there was no history, good or bad and so this should have been an amiable introduction to form the foundation for the relationship going forward. Instead he received a frosty response and a grilling for 40 minutes where he was tarred with the same brush as the agencies preceding him and left with little or no inclination to work on the account. The client was an ex-agency consultant, full of bitterness about the agency world and rather than leveraging her background to build rapport and influence the agencies to deliver for her, she has taken the other path – looking down on the very industry that trained her.

This is a rare case however and I strongly support the view that the best in-house recruiters will have some experience in the agency world.

That said, it doesn’t follow that every consultant can make the move in-house. I know that there is a widespread view that in-house recruiters are failed agency consultants:  (those that can, recruit; those that can’t recruit in-house etc…) however in my experience of the industry this is certainly not the case.  Those making the move in-house generally do so for positive reasons – to find an environment where they can better employ their skills.

I’m the first to admit that I wasn’t the best agency consultant. I had colleagues who were more tenacious, competitive and better sellers. However the very skills which weren’t recognised in the target-driven agency environment were skills which I think made me a good in-house recruiter: relationship management, diplomacy, candidate control, communication skills, attention to detail and time management. Combine these ‘softer’ skills with a strong work ethic, a sense of urgency and a commercial outlook and this works really well in a challenging in-house role which can be highly pressured.

Some of my former colleagues just wouldn’t have cut it in-house – they wouldn’t have had the patience to deal with the internal politics and bureaucracy which forms the back drop for many resourcing teams. In an in-house role there is nowhere to hide –you can’t take a commercial decision not to work on a role if you feel it isn’t worth your while and your internal ‘clients’ are often high profile and incredibly demanding. This is a test of your influencing and communication skills – you need to be able to maximise your internal ‘brand’ in order to have some control over the hiring managers who left unchecked, have a tendency to hinder the process rather than expedite it!

There is increased pressure to source directly for obvious cost reasons however there is often little time to do this properly so you become adept at focusing your efforts and using agencies only on those roles where you really can’t do it yourself. There is also a massive difference in how you organise your time, driven by the incredible volume of email communication you receive in-house. Agency consultants are quite rightly encouraged to do everything on the phone and this is at odds with a corporate HR department where by definition, you are encouraged to keep an audit trail of absolutely everything.

Coming from an agency background was extremely powerful when working in-house. I knew all the tricks of the trade and so I was able to challenge agencies (in what I hope was a humorous and positive way) and ensure that our process was followed. I took a direct approach and tried to treat the agency consultant how I had hoped to be treated when I was in the same position – communicating openly about issues and time delays and trying to respond as quickly as possible to ensure they were able to manage their candidates’ expectations and therefore protect our employer brand in the market.

There were times when I could visualise some of my agencies mentally throwing darts at my Linkedin profile when I was forced to postpone an assignment due a corporate restructure or cancel an interview at short notice. It was embarrassing as I knew the work that the better agencies would have put in and the difficult position they would be in letting the candidates know.

Experiencing the ‘other side’ made me realise that there are some appalling practitioners in our industry but equally that there are some excellent recruitment professionals out there and I really enjoyed the relationships we made with these companies. I was genuinely pleased when they made a placement with us and was vocal in championing their brand internally.

My agency training enabled me to control the process and manage candidate offers effectively, negotiate to get the best commercial outcome for the business and, I hope, build genuine relationships with agencies based on mutual respect rather than disdain.

Most importantly, I never forgot what it was like to make that business development call and receive the inevitable frosty reception – this didn’t mean I tolerated the really poor sales approaches but it certainly made me treat consultants courteously and with respect.

I am interested to hear your opinion on this – what, in your view, is the best background for an in-house recruiter? Is it necessary to have experienced the agency world first-hand or are other backgrounds equally relevant?

Sophie Mackenzie

Many of my everyday conversations are spent informing people about what is happening in the retail recruitment market. Many of the people I talk to ask me what the market is currently like for job opportunities which is interesting really, particularly given the adverse headlines that continue to hit the press. In fact it probably also reflects the conflicting signals that candidates seem to be picking up during their job search.

I think for most candidates when they first enter the market they are often pleasantly surprised by the volume of roles that appear to be available matching their skills and experience. However I think for the majority, this mild euphoria soon dissipates when they realise just how competitive it is in the market with a vast number of individuals chasing relatively lower job volumes.

So is it really as bad as people think it is? A recent report by retailchoice.com highlights some of the issues that our market is facing and I have to admit that on the whole it paints a fairly depressing picture.  Compared to last year, the number of roles advertised is down some 13% and whilst we are not down to the levels of 2009 yet, the trend unfortunately is definitely downwards. Whilst their website carries roles across a broad range of salaries, unsurprisingly it is the management roles that have been hit hardest with a fall of some 3000 roles.  This year has seen a number of large retailers go into administration such as Peacocks, Game, JJB etc. and fundamentally this has resulted in less retail stores trading and therefore the need for less management at both store and field level.

So where are people finding it toughest? Geographically there are some very different pictures. London continues to enjoy not only the highest volume of roles but also the least competition, where applications per job are at their lowest. This contrasts considerably with the North West, North East and Scotland who not only have to contend with fewer roles but much higher levels of competition.

Again, sector wise, there are quite wide disparities. Fashion has clearly been one of the hardest hit as consumers’ disposable income continues to be squeezed resulting in a 14% fall in vacancies, whilst the supermarkets have demonstrated resilience with an increase in job roles.

What is clear is that, in specialist area such as e-commerce, logistics etc. the demand and supply equation between roles and relevant candidates is nicely balanced with a good number of opportunities for people in that sector. This is further reflected across a number of other head office functions. For store and field managers the dynamics look a lot more challenging. Fewer stores mean fewer roles and the statistics show in some cases, applications are up as much as 50%.

The other interesting dynamic is the role of Linkedin; I recently read a survey conducted by Linkedin that suggested that although only 20% of candidates classed themselves as “active” , close to 80% of individuals would consider other opportunities. This was broken down as 20% “active”, 15% “tiptoer” (those candidates considering a move and reaching out to close associates) and then 44% “explorer” who are not actively looking for a job but would be willing to discuss new opportunities with recruiters. They classify the “tiptoer” and the “explorer” as being approachable.  The point here is that in reality, the 20% active candidate pool are actually competing with close to another 60% of the potential candidate pool who are also happy to be approached about job roles. Unfortunately, the increased accessibility of these individuals has only served to drive competition for roles even higher and it has been argued in a number of recent surveys that clients perceive passive candidates to be more attractive.

So what advice can we give? For most senior and middle managers the competition in the market means it is proving very difficult to move sector.  Most organisations are risk adverse when it comes to appointing positions and this is understandable given the very challenging economic environment.  My advice to people is to consider businesses where your skills and experience are going to be most marketable and transferable. I would also encourage candidates to use a broad strategy to access these roles, whether that is through their own network, agencies, Linkedin or their target Employer’s website.  With such fierce competition you will need to work smart and hard to beat the competition. Our website has some advice around these aspects should you want more information.

Without a shadow of doubt, for the vast majority of middle and senior management candidates the market out there remains tough. Whilst the number s are certainly negative, as I sit here and write, more positive economic data is being released and as we do come out of recession the market will inevitably pick up . In the meantime, I appreciate it is scant consolation but you are not the only one who is finding it tough…..

Russell Adams

LinkedIn

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