Building a career is not for everybody, but we all have different priorities. For those that are very career minded many want to be in control from the start.  Moving up the ladder naturally involves promotion, taking the next step towards the top of your profession.

The problem is that with today’s flat structures there are far fewer vacancies in retail than willing volunteers to fill them.  So instead of the lottery of career progression “it could be you”, make absolutely certain you are the next in line.

If you study the most successful people in your company, or the very successful people within your industry, then you realise it probably isn’t luck.  They are the sort of people who were always destined for the top because they make things happen.

Building a career is a bit like a round of golf.  It is a mixture of good planning and skill and plain old luck. But you know that the very best will ride their luck and will always be better than the average. And not just because they are better players, but because they have the skill and mindset to put things right when they go wrong.

The market used to place much more premium on employees who were loyal and who learned their trade over a period of time.  Today the market is much more results orientated and just by sitting in an organisation will not guarantee promotion.

So instead of waiting for your dream vacancy to appear, you need to make something happen for yourself.

What will that be?

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Sitting where we are, in the middle, we can tell that it is a difficult automotive market.

You get to know the signs – sales managers need to replace key staff quickly, sales staff like to “keep their options open”, senior directors tell you it could be a good time to develop their careers.  Oh, and the honest ones tell you it is hard work.

But there are bright spots, regionally, by franchise, by department.  As a rule though, we know the market is tough. Falling production and falling sales, Brexit, diesel dying – all are conspiring to make people nervous.

And nervous people make bad decisions, or at least different decisions to the ones they make in good times. Which is my message this week – to quote The Hitchikers Guide to The Galaxy “Don’t Panic!”.

Or rather don’t throw away all the good practices you have learnt in rather more benign times, especially when it comes to recruitment.  Because the mistakes you make in haste and under pressure now will only come back to haunt you, and in today’s litigious environment they could cost you a lot.

Take these examples of panic measures from the past couple of weeks, both from reputable, well respected employers.  A manager needed a service advisor quickly, meets a young candidate from a stable background and offers the job almost on the spot, he confirms with an offer letter.  

As soon as notice has been handed in the contract is issued, asking him to break his current contract of a month’s notice and start within a week.  It is made clear that if he cannot agree the offer will be withdrawn.

Another client needs a manger and briefs us on a basic salary – let us say of £50,000.  We put up several candidates, but one in particular we know is strong and emphasise that he is only interested if the offer is indeed the full 50.  Long process, lots of meetings and a call is made to this candidate – would he consider £35-40,000?

You and I know the answer, something unprintable followed by “Why have I wasted the last 3 weeks?”.  The client relents, and offers the full package. Except by now the candidate has lost interest and trust.

In both cases the recruitment was unsuccessful and left both parties feeling aggrieved.  The employers were upset because they felt they had offered what was required and had been rejected – the candidates because they knew there had an attempt to “tuck them up”.

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“I thought it would be easier to look for a new job with time on my hands, so I resigned”

“We had a major policy disagreement, so I resigned”

“I am not prepared to discuss the reasons for leaving as I will not betray my old employer’s confidentiality”

“They discovered that I was looking for another job and sacked me”

Many recruitment consultants, HR Managers and regular interviewers will be smiling at the above. We have heard them all a hundred times and will them again just as often. Sometimes they are true, but you had better be ready to prove it.

Most candidates have nothing to hide, they answer our questions candidly and frankly. With such people we generally have very productive and thoroughly enjoyable meetings, and genuinely feel that we are able to help.

The problem comes with a small percentage who feel that they can bluff their way through any meeting by giving bland and, in their mind, original answers to questions which they would rather you hadn’t asked.

Over the years I have met and interviewed thousands of candidates. During that time I have heard every excuse for dodging a question and the bluffers simply do not impress, they irritate and waste your time. Not only do they waste our time they waste our clients if we put them in front of them.

As a result, we rarely do.

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Lessons learnt in sport, it is a results orientated business after all, can generally translate quite well into business.

For example, Team Sky cycling, and indeed the British Olympic team, have worked on continual improvement for many years. Small incremental gains that put together as a whole give their team a significant advantage. Very transferable.

The concept of team in football, or rugby, the idea of defined, clear roles. The idea of a group of people walking working together towards a common goal. All of these things learnt in sport translate well into business.

And what about lessons learnt in business? I heard the other day that a number of coaches, in this case in rugby, were looking at the way business itself recruits. It was not just enough for them to study athletic performance, fitness levels, playing record. They wanted to look at decision-making, especially under pressure. And to this they were turning to personality profiling.

Now my experience of recruitment in business is mixed. Some companies do it really well, some continue to do it appallingly. In addition the use of personality profiling can, at times, be questionable. Not because the idea of a personality profile is wrong, it is just that candidates can learn how to answer them the way that pleases an audience, and that some tests are way better than others, especially in recruitment terms.

So I wondered really whether personality profiling was the best way to watch people under pressure. After all, the selection process itself is surely pressure enough. Watch people’s decision-making in that environment and it should give you a good idea of how they will cope in a tight game. A game when everything is on the line, just like during the selection process.

I have no idea whether recruitment in sport will change, it will be interesting to see how this is adopted long-term, and whether the ideas stick.

But you cannot deny that it is a two-way street – sport and business are very similar.

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THIS WEEK

One of the biggest challenges facing dealers today is WLTP. But if you read AM-online this week, that will pale into insignificance compared to Brexit. Some, like Robert Forrester, CEO of Vertu, are quite sanguine about the problems – “The sun will still come up the next morning” and liken it to the hysteria surrounding the millennium bug. Others, on the other hand, are fearful of a no deal scenario, they reckon it will add 10-15% to the cost of a car and put thousands of suppliers out of business. The bad news is that the government only has a few months to sort it out, the good news is that we only have a few months to find out what’s going to happen.
And we only have a couple of months left in 2018. Which I am certain will come as a relief to a few people, not least Pendragon. Their report on Q3 was as downbeat as anything else this year, as revenues slipped a further 7.2%. Blaming most of it on WLTP, Trevor Finn nevertheless predicts that the rest of the year is going to remain challenging. He was encouraged, however, by used-car performance. And talking around the industry, it is clear that the lack of new car supply has forced a spike in demand for used, especially in fashionable franchises. However, this still makes used-car trading difficult, as you rarely outperform the market in terms of margin, unless you have the guts foresight to buy forward and stockpile used cars. And anyone in this business will tell you that is a very risky strategy. Predicting full-year 2018 profits of around £50 million, 2019 looks like it will be a crunch year for the group. Their move away from premium franchises means that a reliance on used cars will exaggerate any miscalculations in that sector.
If a continuing decline in the UK retail market was predictable, I bet many of you wished you had bought Tesla shares at the beginning of the week. Reporting their first quarterly profit in car manufacturing since they began, a healthy $377 million, meant their shares shot up by 11%. So I predict that Elon Musk, now chairman and no longer CEO, is not missing that extra bit of salary too much. And he is hopefully looking forward to continued growth for the rest of this year and into next. No WLTP considerations for electric vehicles.
Have a great weekend, winter is coming.
THIS WEEK’S JOBS

Here are some jobs from the past ten days. Check these out and see if there is anything tempting. Click on the link to apply immediately through our site. The situation is changing the whole time and if any link refuses to work, it is probably because it has already been filled and removed. Check out all our jobs at on our Jobs Page
Latest Jobs
QUOTE OF THE WEEK

The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards.
Arthur Koestler (1905 – 1983)
An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it.
Jef Mallett, Frazz, 04-04-07
No one has ever had an idea in a dress suit.
Sir Frederick G. Banting (1891 – 1941)
Making duplicate copies and computer printouts of things no one wanted even one of in the first place is giving America a new sense of purpose.
Andy Rooney (1919 – )

I am all for short and sweet, especially where CVs are concerned. The more impact you can make the better as far as I’m concerned. But you can take it too far.

Take the CV we received yesterday. I have just done a word count – 122 words! And if you take out the tags the gentleman added at the bottom, like “auctioneer, sales, commission etc”, it comes down to 108 words. And some of that is his address and interests.

While you do not want to bore your prospective readership, if the only thing you can say about your career (and his was over 30 years long) is about 60 words, then you either not got much to say and shout about, or you can’t be bothered. In either case you are not going to impress an employer.

I suspect this CV was cut-and-paste from a LinkedIn profile. And even on LinkedIn I would say that 100 words was way too short. Remember, your CV should be neatly laid out, well ordered and easy to read. But it should contain some content.

For example, I have no idea how many people this gentleman has managed, the sorts of volumes his dealerships were responsible for, even the franchises involved. These are basic bits of information that are essential for any employer to make a decision about you. It would also be nice to know if he had been consistently profitable over the years, if he had hit targets, if he had grown any of his businesses.

Less information is generally good, no information is useless.

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I ran a blog recently about difficult questions in interview. You know the type, they have no right or wrong answer but they make you think. Things like “How many windows are there in London?” or “How many cats are there in Cornwall?”

Unless you are amazingly lucky, and you have just read the stats the night before, you’re going to have to work it out or say “I have no clue”, which is not the answer they are looking for.

Well it turns out, according to a study in Applied Psychology, that the use of such questions actually provides no useful feedback. In fact they are absolutely useless in deciding whether somebody is right for your job or not.

But interestingly, they say much about the interviewer themselves. So they are a useful guide for applicants, because such interviewers tend to be control freaks, and potentially psychopaths. At best narcissists and sadists. In other words they love to see people squirm in discomfort trying to work out how best to answer an impossible question.

So you have been warned. Such gimmicks have very little place in the interview process and provide almost no useful information – learn how to interview properly and you will get much better results.

But they do have their uses, they do say that you are not a great person to work for.

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THIS WEEK

There are all sorts of indicators that reflect the rise or fall in demand for vehicles. But as Michelin suffered its worst drop in its share price for seven years today, it might be time to reflect whether the car tyre market is one of those indicators. Obviously the sale of tyres that does not necessarily reflect the sale of vehicles, though logically the more cars there are on the road, the more tyres there are to sell. But you could still sell the same number of cars and have car usage fall. Or speed limits be applied more strictly so people didn’t drive like maniacs and wear their tyres out. So the relationship is complicated, but it is probably indicative of a problem in the motor industry in general.

This was borne out by highly respected industry analyst Arndt Ellinghorst, who was quoted in the FT today as saying that “80% of suppliers are likely to reduce their full-year 2018 guidance”. What does that mean exactly? Well probably most of them are not going to adjust their forecasts upwards, and he did say elsewhere that he expects to be this reporting season to be the ugliest ever. Certainly problems towards the end of this year with vehicle manufacturing, WLTP compliance and consumer demand have all combined.

Europe has had an energy problem for some time, being highly reliant upon places like Russia for its supplies of gas and for others for its supplies of fuel. So the EU has looked at our future power requirements, and decided to, as the headline says, jump-start its battery electric battery sector. With the emergence of the electric car an inevitable part of future transportation, it is obvious that we need something to power them. And batteries are the new power units. So Europe (and we have to presume presume the UK post Brexit) is looking at ways of promoting battery production.

They are sinking substantial funds and resources into the project partly because 80% of the current world’s production is in Asia. Compare China’s 69% market share with Europe’s 4%. Something needs doing and hopefully we will start to catch up. Though we had better be quick, our Asian rivals are already building plants in Europe to produce over here. European battery production may be a lost opportunity.

Have a great weekend, enjoy the weather. 

THIS WEEK’S JOBS
Here are some jobs from the past ten days. Check these out and see if there is anything tempting. Click on the link to apply immediately through our site. The situation is changing the whole time and if any link refuses to work, it is probably because it has already been filled and removed. Check out all our jobs at on our Jobs Page

 

Latest Jobs
QUOTE OF THE WEEK 

If you can’t say anything good about someone, sit right here by me.
Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884 – 1980)

The covers of this book are too far apart.
Ambrose Bierce (1842 – 1914), The Devil’s Dictionary

Character is what you have left when you’ve lost everything you can lose.
Evan Esar (1899 – 1995)

There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.
Sir Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626), “Of Beauty”

A recent report estimated that 60-70% of a dealer’s costs were spent on salaries and staff.  That is quite an overhead.

And quite an asset.  And, according to other studies quite a leaky bucket.  On average at least 9 days out of every working year are lost to absenteeism.

We had a chat to a number of the top employers to find out how they viewed the absenteeism problem.  

As you would expect, there was a range of opinions, but it is interesting how polarised opinions are.  It seems that most of you view as absenteeism a bit like crime figures. It is either something that has to be stamped out, or it is a symptom of something else.  There are very few employers are out there who view it as a bit of both.

But it is a real cost. 9 days adds about 3.5% to your staff costs, and just as importantly a lot of stress, reorganisation and disruption to other employees.  But just as the loss of talented performers from your business is both avoidable and controllable, so is absenteeism.

But you need to decide to tackle it.

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My sons are in their 20s. I think one of the greatest tragedies of their generation is the fact that over 50% of them have gone to university, racked up massive bills and left with a degree that has been, at best, devalued by so many others.

So it is good to see that the government, in the form of Damian Hinds, the Education Secretary, has recognised the technical training is worthwhile. In an interview with The Times in late September he promised to put much more importance on technical training. And to ensure that it was recognised for what it is, an ideal way for technically, rather than academically, minded school leavers to improve their skills and find the right way into the workplace.

It is over simplistic to say that society is divided between thinkers and doers, but there is an element of truth to it. And the sooner that we recognise that technicians, engineers and other skilled trades are just as valuable and important to our society as consultants and academics, then the better it will be for all of us.

And perhaps one day we can return to a system where we are not trying to educate everyone to degree standard, and it becomes more affordable for all.

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