Recruitment agencies – the truth…

Ok let me start with a bit of context. Firstly, I worked in the recruitment agency business for many years both as an employee and running my own agency, before going in-house. Secondly the blog is intended to give some guidelines and advice to people who may be using recruitment agencies for the first time. So, this blog is not an agency-bashing-blog, quite the opposite. Like all businesses and people – every one is different and has a different reasons for doing things that they do, so these comments are general advice and not necessarily relevant for every agency.

You want a job!

At the time of writing this blog, we are led to believe that we have come out of a pretty tough recession and that UK business in particular is on the up. So that makes finding a new job easy? Nope. Jobs are still hard to come by, so why not consider using a recruitment consultant? They are (in the UK at least) free of charge to the candidate (the employer pays the fees). What you might not know is the agency will, more often than not, not get paid until the successful person actually starts their job. So, it is in the agency’s interest to place the right person and do it properly.

Do they believe in you?

If they believe in you, a recruiter should hopefully have a great chance of making the employer believe in you. A recruitment consultant is a sales person selling you and your strengths after all. So you need to have a good, honest and open relationship with a recruitment consultant. In my opinion, this can really only be achieved by meeting the consultant or agency who will be representing you (either face to face or using technology like Skype for example). It’s much harder for them to sell your skills and strengths if they don’t know you.

Blurred lines and truth twisting…

You may have been tempted to ”adapt” your CV and therefore the consultant will do the same – so don’t lie. If you’re truthful about your experience and skills and the consultant is honest, the interviewer will get the real deal when they see you. It might be hard to spot if a consultant is going to be honest, that’s the leap of faith from your side but, going back to my previous point, a face to face meeting will help reassure you. At the end of the day, selling the real you is important – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard feedback from an interview where it’s been said that the person bore no resemblance to the CV…

Set the rules from the start and take control!

Every consultant will get and make hundreds of calls a week, so its tempting for them to find an easy way to represent you as a job seeker. The easy way can often lead you into a difficult situation without you knowing. From the start, ensure that the consultant understands that you want to know exactly where they are sending your CV. Often a consultant will send your CV by email to multiple employers at the same time. This might sound like a great idea, but consider if every agency that you’re registered with does the same, then a potential employer may get your CV (or a version of it) multiple times and start to doubt your credibility. More importantly, imagine if your CV fell into the hands of someone you didn’t want it to, for example your current boss… By setting the rules up front, you can control who does or doesn’t get your details.

Record it!

Keep a record of each consultant, their email/phone number and agree how often and how you will contact each other. Your relationship with the consultant will suffer if you stalk them. Also keep a record of exactly who they’ve sent your details to, to avoid those duplicate CV moments (mentioned in last paragraph).
Can you keep a secret?
Consultants will nearly always ask you who you’ve already been to see or been spoken to about, including any contact you have made yourself. Consultants make a living out of chasing down leads on possible vacancies. It is entirely up to you if you decide to tell the consultant or not. There is no right or wrong answer to this. All I would say is that if you plan to keep the information to yourself, be straight with the consultant and tell them in a pleasant but firm manner. Again you should be in control. It’s worth considering whether you can use it as a way of building a relationship with your consultant but also keep in mind that you could be giving another candidate a chance of your perfect job.

PDF it!

Lastly, if you’re sending your CV electronically, send or upload it as a PDF version. This may well drive the consultant a bit mad, but there is a point to this. Once you send it by PDF, they will not be able to change anything without asking you first. I have witnessed consultants changing or removing things without the knowledge of the jobseeker as they thought it was the right thing to do. It might well be the right thing to do and, after all, they are supposed to be the expert, but by using a PDF they’ll need to ask you first.

…And finally

Recruitment agencies offer another angle to job-seeking…. There are many ways to find the right role for you including you doing the hard work. Remember though, whatever route you take, you should control it and be honest and organised throughout.

Posted in candidate experience, career, counter-offer, Direct Hire, General Recruitment Thoughts, In House Recruitment, job, job offer, recruitment | Leave a comment

5 tips for the perfect CV

Love them or hate them they aren’t going anywhere. My honest opinion is that places like LinkedIn will certainly change the way people are found and considered, but for now it’s the good old fashioned CV. So I’ve seen thousands and thousands over the years and I believe that by getting these 5 basic things sorted, you may just be the one that stands out.

Number 1

Every hiring manager’s pet hate is SPELLING and GRAMMAR mistakes. There is absolutely no excuse with spellcheck on nearly everyone’s PC, laptop or device. I have seen the best in class experience and qualities turned away because of spelling mistakes – sort it or you run the risk of getting deleted.

Number 2

Style / length / format. Ok controversial one this as I’ve always been told that it should be 2 pages maximum. That is absolute claptrap. Length is up to you if everything in it is relevant. What I would say however is that a 2 page CV will be more concise and a 5 pager will probably induce a coma. Use the rule of 10 years of career per page. Font size no less than 10, no fancy fonts either and always white background and black character (remember some folk still photocopy documents…). Lastly don’t forget your achievements as they make you unique. Sure, a couple of lines about the purpose of the role are acceptable but what you were successful in is more important. Oh and drop the photo unless you’re applying to be the latest face on the cover of a magazine as it doesn’t add anything to your application.

Number 3

Lies. They catch you out eventually. Even slight enhancement of the facts will catch you out. Remember a CV is likely to be a source of questions you’ll answer in an interview. Think of it this way, how would you feel if the advert lied and said that it will pay £70k basic, when it actually pays £30k?

Number 4

Kiss and tell. If you give away confidential information about your current or previous employer and it leaks a) the person reading your CV could use that to their advantage b) the person reading it won’t trust you c) you might get yourself in legal hot water.

Number 5

Who has your CV/resume? Do you really know who has it? Think carefully about who you give it to and what personal information you are giving. Only give it to someone who abides by the Data Protection Act. Consider saving it in PDF format that makes it tricky for it to be changed without your knowledge. If it’s posted randomly all over every job board, you do know that your current employer might see it don’t you…? Finally when you’ve got your dream job – remove it from wherever you posted it.

Written by Colin, Group Resourcing and Recruitment Manager for KCOM Group PLC. Follow Colin on Twitter @RecruiterCol and @KCOMGroupJobs

Posted in candidate experience, career, General Recruitment Thoughts, In House Recruitment, job, job offer, LinkedIn, recruitment, Social Media, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The time between dark and light

I’ve been thinking a lot about candidate experience recently. Its something that I am trying to improve all the time. As we’re all still in a period of time where employers are struggling to attract the perfect individual who may have multiple prospective job options or they are sat in the job with ‘better the devil you know…’ it is becoming increasingly important from a time and cost perspective to make sure that the person you want and offer a job to actually joins. During my 10 years in recruitment I have personally had and come into contact with many people that have had the classic “wobble” or counter-offer during the notice period. As a Manager, recruiter or someone involved in the recruitment process, what can you do to prevent or at least reduce the risk of this happening or worse still encounter them giving back-word? Well the truth of the matter is that if the candidate has already made up their mind and/or didn’t actually really want to take up the new role and was maybe using he interview/offer as a bargaining chip then you have no chance of convincing them to join,so bow out with a little dignity. If however the candidate genuinely wanted a new new job there are some things that you can do that maybe, just maybe might keep them interested and on-track to join.

Process and sticking to you word.

So the candidate has had their interview and you’ve promised feedback on a specific day. The first rule is that you must stick to your word and deliver the feedback and/or offer on or before that day you said you would. If you don’t, you run the risk of placing doubt into their mind. You may not be in a position to offer… so what? Pick up the phone and tell them that you cant offer… yet. At the very least email them. This also applies to offer letters. Don’t just blame the postman send an electronic version of the offer letter.


Obvious but rarely done. Keep talking to the candidate from the minute that they sign their name till the Friday before they join (assuming that they’re joining on the Monday). By talking to them regularly you start the relationship with them from that very moment and who knows you may even get wind of a potential problem early on. Keep asking about what is happening in their current role or if they’re not in work, what have they been up to (have they been going for other interviews?)


Just because they haven’t actually started their job should that be a reason that they aren’t allowed into the building or for you to meet them? Well it shouldn’t be! By bringing them in to meet the team or by going out to lunch or by having a coffee, you again build that relationship from the signature moment. By introducing them to their new workmates they will feel like they’re a part of the team and probably won’t feel as nervous on day one and the team certainly won’t treat them like a stranger.


At the very least if you truly are not able to meet or speak with them, send them things to look at and learn. It might be the company handbook, policies, ‘who’s who’ guide or even company accounts… it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is that you send them will again mean that they feel like they are being thought of.

Reward them

Now this is a little advanced but need not be. Why not send them a list of the benefits or rewards that are on offer to them as an employee including a holiday form. Yes I realise that this may be a little radical, but think of it this way – if you have a great benefits scheme think how they’ll feel if they get to choose their benefits before actually joining. They’ll already be your employee in their head! As for the holiday form, you don’t actually have to approve it till they join but it will remove the fear of them asking for time off when they first join. What about letting them choose a training program or even get them to think about a personal development plan? All these will have the feel of you giving them something.

And finally…

Remember that the time between telling their current boss that they’re leaving may well be a difficult and nerve-wracking time. Just because they may be the strongest character in the world, what they have to go through emotionally may be one of the hardest hings that they may have had to do. Then there is the reaction of the current employer that usually ranges from shock to puppy-dog eyes to persuasion to anger or at its worst blackmail, bullying or isolation… Quite a journey from the dark to the light isn’t it? So what are you planning to do to help them through it? A lot I hope!

Posted in candidate experience, counter-offer, Direct Hire, General Recruitment Thoughts, In House Recruitment, job offer, manager help, recruitment, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Killer Questions?

Killer question - what time will I finish work?

Killer question – what time will I finish work?

During my career I’ve sat at both sides of the interview table and have also stood outside the interview room with my fingers crossed for the person inside. During that time I have heard and used some clever questions in the interview, of which I like to call “The Killer Questions”. Why do I call it that? Well there are 2 reasons… First it could be the question that you ask that seals the deal (gets you the job), secondly it could well be the question that kills off all hope of securing the job. So the key to doing it right lies in the why and when you use it.


Well in my experience the questions that a candidate asks at the end of an interview can be the thing that swings the interview in their favour. If you really do want the job and the interview feels like it has gone well, then asking a couple of intelligent questions will round it off nicely and could land you another interview or an offer. Conversely, asking what you perceive to be a clever question if it’s not gone well or worse still, asking a question that is inappropriate or plain daft will inevitably end up with a “Thanks, but are you having a laugh?” letter.


Well that is really down to you as depending on the type of interview that it is, there may not be an obvious place to ask. The key is to listen to what the interviewer says to you at the start of the interview. The interviewer will often indicate if it’s OK to stop, interrupt, ask or seek clarification on a point. If they say this, it means that they would welcome a sensible question. Note the word “sensible” (we’ll look at this later under “Ugly”). The ideal place though is right at the end of the interview when you’ll likely get something along the lines of “So do you have any questions for me/us”? That’s you cue – take a breath, think and ask.

So what’s “Good”?

Well if there is something that has been discussed that you frankly didn’t quite understand, or feel that you didn’t quite get enough context behind it etc – then ask.
When you’ve done this use the simple Company/Team/You approach. Some examples could be along the lines of;

Company – “I see from various media articles that I’ve read (of course you will have researched the company beforehand) that the company has increased its turnover. What do you attribute to being the single biggest reason for this growth?”
Team – “If I was to speak to one of the team, what do think they would say was good about working for the company?”
You – “When you joined the company, what was it that convinced you to join?”
These types of questions should give you a chance to sit back and let the interviewer sell the company, team and themselves to you. It’s clever as all of a sudden, you become the interviewer and put them under a little pressure!

So what’s “Bad”?

Asking questions when the interview hasn’t gone that well is just going to prolong the agony for you. It will waste the interviewer’s time and yours and will completely put them off you. Similarly if you’re not interested, it’s again wasting both parties time, so don’t bother.

So what’s “Ugly”?

Probably a bit obvious, but questions like “remind me what time I start and finish?”, “exactly how many hours do you expect me to work?”, “do I get an hours lunch break?”, “how much does the job pay?” or like one idiot asked me? “did you sack the last fella then?”. Whilst some of these questions may appear to be important – are they really? Probably not. If they are important you’re probably unlikely to be the right person for the role.

And finally…

OK so you’re just about to leave. It’s gone well. The interviewer has been open and impressed by your previous questions. You absolutely want the job. You feel very confident. You could top it off with “Is there anything that I have said or not been clear enough on that would prevent me from being offered another interview or gives you cause for concern”. It’s bold, it’s audacious but a great way to tie it all up neatly… go for it.

Posted in Direct Hire, General Recruitment Thoughts, In House Recruitment, LinkedIn, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Before and after the BIG interview

There are loads of blogs out there telling you the things that you should and shouldn’t do around your interview, so I realise that some of the points that I’ll make have been mentioned before, but as I’ve been in recruitment for a while as a recruitment consultant and as an in-house recruiter, there are some things to consider that might not be as obvious as you think.


Prepare like you’ve never done before! Remember the recruitment world changes all the time and gone are the days where you could get away with having a nosey about the business at your local library. The person/s that will be sat at the opposite side of the table asking you the questions will expect more… a lot more!

1. Research the business. The internet is great, but don’t limit the search to the company website. Let Google be your friend and see what else there is out there about the company including press releases, financial statements, takeovers etc. Commit the most important points to memory as it won’t look great if you just print a load of stuff of and take it into the interview.

2. Research the interviewer and their team/department. It’s becoming more and more commonplace for a business to look you up beforehand (yes that includes your Facebook page!). So what to research? Well once again, let Google be your friend. Consider looking the interviewer and business up on LinkedIn – that’s particularly a good idea if the role you’re interviewing for includes social media! Consider calling the company directly and either explain who you are and why your calling, or maybe consider doing some insider research e.g. if it’s a customer services role, call the customer services line and see what your experience is like.

3. Put something together to take into the interview. Remember (particularly important if you’ve gone via an agency) to take some copies of your CV as the version that the interviewer has (agencies could have changed it/removed/added things) may be completely different. Take some additional information. That information could be a list of achievements, projects, presentations, spreadsheet of savings… you get the idea. One final point though… and this is the best bit – put your contact details including you phone number/email address etc – it’s like a business card.


The crucial part really as it’s the lasting impression that you leave and is often the part that separates you from your competition…

1. So the interview is just about to end and you’ve asked your “Killer questions” (a blog to follow on this!)… What should you do before you shake their hand and say goodbye? Hand them the additional information – that includes your contact details. You’ll probably be the only person they interview that does it and it will be the thing that they refer back to and remember you by. Also add the words “Don’t hesitate to contact me afterwards if there is anything else you need to know” to your farewell.

2. If you have their email, or if you’re connected to them on Social Media – particularly LinkedIn, drop them a quick, polite and professional note thanking them for their time, how you enjoyed meeting them and reaffirming your interest in the position.

3. Check your voicemail works (if you don’t have, one get one) and make sure that what they hear as your intro message is appropriate! Check your inbox for emails. Respond to either in a professional appropriate and speedy manner!

Good luck – you’re better that the competition so do things differently!

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Does a red sports car picture sell you as being a truly fantastic employee?

No, probably not and it never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t think about how they will be perceived. The fact is that social media channels such as LinkedIn are fast becoming the first place that employers and recruiters look to source candidates and/or people to network with.

With that thought in mind then, would you put a picture of you necking a yard of beer on a stag do or a picture of you and your other half onto your CV? If the answer to this is yes – please stop reading now as you are probably beyond the point of help!

Your picture, rightly or wrongly is likely to be the first thing that someone sees when they open your profile. I recently wrote a blog on the do’s and don’ts when creating a CV and one of the points was around people insisting on including a picture of themselves on a CV – it doesn’t improve your chances in any way, and it certainly is more likely to put someone off.

Social media is fast falling split into 2 categories.

1 – Your social life media where you and your friends and family look at each other and what you’ve been up to – e.g. Facebook

2 – Your professional life social media where you discuss and look at what people are doping and sharing that has a bearing in their career including a potential change in job – e.g. LinkedIn

There are of course the likes of Twitter, Foursquare and Pinterest that can be both so my advice would be to look at your profile and in particular your picture/avatar and decide if that profile is used for professional or social purposes. If it’s for professional purposes, use a professional picture of just you and no other implements/people/animals/minerals/silly hats on it. Also remember that potential employers are becoming savvy to social media and may look at what you’ve been up to on your “social life” media page, so if you don’t want them to see it, lock it down and keep it private and for just those who you want to see it. Who knows the connection requests and followers may start pouring in.

Posted in Direct Hire, General Recruitment Thoughts, In House Recruitment, LinkedIn, Social Media | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The perfect CV – Is there really such a thing?

I doubt there is such a thing as the perfect CV otherwise someone would no doubt have put some kind of copyright around it! I have seen hundreds of blogs giving advice on the perfect CV, but seeing as I have experience of being a hiring manager, recruitment consultant and an in-house recruiter, I thought I’d give some very quick “Do’s and Don’ts”

1 – Don’t include a photo

Why should you? Do you want someone to pass judgement and select you on the basis of how good you look in your Speedo’s whilst in Ibiza last year? That is of course unless you’re applying to be a model for a swimwear catalogue, in which case go for it!

2 – Do think about your personal details

Remember that this is the first thing that someone will see when they look at you CV. Make sure your name is there.  Obvious I know but believe me the name does sometimes get missed. Put your qualifications next to your name e.g. if you spent years toiling over your professional accountancy exams – when you’ve passed, put the letters after your name as you’ve earned that right and its often the thing that the manager will be looking for. Make sure that your telephone contact number is correct and not a mobile that you had in 1983 and have an operational voicemail – how else will you know that you have an interview? Finally always include your social media links, provided of course that link to your profile is something would be happy to show your Mum. Potential employers may try to look you up before deciding to interview you, so show them that you are a clean-living, employable professional.

3 – Do think about the content of your CV – The “Bingo” moment

If you’ve applied for a particular role, try to ensure that everything that the employer wants or are ideally looking for is in your CV and if possible design your CV around the role you’ve applied for. For example if you’re applying for a senior role, do you think that the person reading your cv wants to know about every single duty you carried out as a part-time ice cream van assistant in Great Yarmouth in the summer holidays of 1993? I don’t think so either… When the prospective hiring manager is running their eyes over your words they’ll likely want to say “Bingo” on the first page, when they see that vital thing that they really want.  Oh and don’t tell lies or make your duties or role sound bigger than they were as you will be found out!

4 – Don’t make it the size of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

There’s apparently a rule that it should be no longer that 2 pages long… Er – not sure who started that rule as it’s wrong! Basically you decide on the appropriate length and content, but think about point 3. Just make sure that what needs to be there is there and the rest can either be cut down to one-liners or mentioned briefly. The further back in your career you go, the less likely the reader of your CV will need to know the full in’s and out’s everything  A word of caution though – don’t leave time gaps as the reader will assume you’ve attempted to hide something.

5 – Do start now and not then

Start your CV with your current/last role that you held and work backwards.

That’s it! No guarantees you’ll get the job, but might well make the reader look at your CV a bit more seriously and the rest they say, is up to you!

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The death of the traditional first interview?

…Well not quite yet, however the manner and way in which we conduct the 1st interview will change. I know it’s changing in the organisation I work in. You see I am lucky as I work in a technology and solutions business where two of their core values are ‘innovation’ and ‘flexibility’. I also have a very open-minded boss who, like me, is constantly looking at the way we do things to see if there is a better way. What this means is that I get the opportunity to really think about the recruitment process that is deployed through my team of ‘In-Houser’s’ into the business and this is where my latest idea has taken shape.

So then let me set the scene. You are a Head of Sales and you primarily base yourself in the south. You have a team of Account Managers based across the UK.  . Monday morning arrives with a ‘white envelope’ moment; your top Account Manager from the north has resigned. You’ll be a team member down and you’ve got to find a replacement and quick. After the calls, emails and meetings with your recruitment team and of course your newly acquired best friend/stalker the recruitment consultant, you finally draw up a not-so-shortlist of eight CV’s (the agency has insisted that every one of the CV’s is a perfect fit). You instruct HR to line up five face-to-face interviews ASAP in the north. HR somehow gets three names booked in to see you in two days’ time. Now the travel. Rail…. How much?! Ah well, needs must! The day of interviews arrives with you on the train when the phone rings… hey presto – one candidate has pulled out. Never mind, with the agencies promise of amazing in your head, you step into reception to greet the candidate and there they are….the candidate from hell. You know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but this is a sales person who needs to make an impression. How did it come to this?

We recently tried ‘video interviewing’. This is not a Skype; it’s better. All you and your candidate need is a PC/laptop and webcam and for you as the Manager, to do five 1st stage interviews, about two hours of your time. What could be easier? Let me explain. Firstly you design five questions that will assess the behaviours of your candidates along with a couple of competency questions too if you want. Let’s face it you’ll know after 15 minutes worth of answers if they’re the real deal. The best thing is that the candidate does it in their own time and then you get to watch the recorded result in your own time. OK, it’s not right for every single role, but I know from experience that the time and money that’s wasted on interviews that should never have taken place, especially at a senior level, could have been spent in a better way. What does the candidate get out of this? Well most the 1st interviews will be at a time when they have no way of getting out of work in the middle of the day, so they do it from home. Also, when the question pops up on screen, they get time to think about their answer before they hit ‘record’ and deliver it to you. Now it’s not fool proof, but it certainly would help you avoid that awkward, feeble handshake in reception when you quickly calculate which questions to drop out of your interview to make it the shortest one in history.

So in terms of results we’re still assessing it, but everyone who’s used the technology so far has liked it. We’ve just made offers to two candidates that we put through their video paces and they both initially said they were a little unsure about it (we introduced eight to the video process). As for the Manager, well he loves it as he got to interview eight candidates in just under three hours on a Sunday morning in his study at home. Now isn’t that better than the old-fashioned alternative?

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