I have reckoned for some time that you have about 8 seconds to make an impression with your CV. However recent research by some of the largest websites shows that time has now shrunk to 6 seconds. So when you sit down to write your CV, do not be tempted to think that the tiniest detail is important, that every single facet of your life needs to be included. It doesn’t.

What can you look at in six seconds? Well I will tell you what I look for.

Name

Location

Companies you have worked for

Your most recent job title

Any notable achievements.

If some or all of those interest me, then we continue reading. But if most of your experience is with the wrong companies or in the wrong industry, you live in the wrong location for the job I am filling, you have moved about much too much or you do not really demonstrate too many achievements then I move on.

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Here is a common problem. You go along and have an exploratory meeting with a new group. They have an exciting opportunity that they wish to discuss with you.

Except when you get back to base a call comes in from your Regional Director. “I hear you’ve been to see XYZ Motors. I need to see you, now” I have seen it happen plenty of times. At MTS we are paranoid about security, making sure that people who are seeing clients for consecutive time-slots do not know each other. Warning candidates if there might be a danger of recognition. But it still happens.

How do you handle it? Most candidates hold their hands up, say it was just exploratory and promise to withdraw from the process. Others view it as sealing their fate, so they make very sure they get the opportunity they have been along for, or continue trying somewhere else. But however you handle it, you need to be prepared.

One note, it is quite difficult for employers to sack you because of this. Obviously if you have only been with the company for less than two years they can ask you to leave for almost any reason, but if you have been with them for a long time, exploring another opportunity probably does not break your contract. Clearly you need legal advice if you fall into this situation, as there may be some very specific circumstances where you might be in trouble, but in general any attempt by the employer to suggest it will affect your career, your promotion or your relationship with them could lead to a claim of unfair dismissal, or even constructive dismissal. So they need to be very careful, even if they are perfectly at liberty to display their displeasure.

In today’s fast flowing employment market, looking for another job is not a crime. Exploring potential career opportunities is quite normal behaviour.  But it will still upset your boss.

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We all think that finding a new job is a logical, dispassionate affair. That the new employer will respect us if we take our time, if we don’t get too carried away, if we make them wait a bit before we finally decide to say yes.

I have often likened the process of finding a new job to dating. And what you say in the early days really sets the tone for the relationship going forward.

So think about this carefully. Whilst you can never lie, you might just one question whether you should be completely honest the whole time. Ask yourself whether your desire to keep the new employer at arms length is compatible with their desire to sort this job out as quickly as possible.

Do they prefer someone who is logical to somebody who is really keen to join? Giving good, positive buying signals is much more important than telling them you still have a choice, you won’t make your mind up yet, you have got other good opportunities to see.

Even if they know you are not quite decided, the sensible candidate will politely buy some time, ask their partner and get back to the employer the next day. Or perhaps ask for a written offer and have some sensible questions that need answering. All of this can move the relationship along while you are waiting for the outcome of another meeting.

And in all honesty if you do decide to join them, no one will be any the wiser nor think any the less of you.

The problem for a number candidates is that they are too desperate to get the job. We see it too often – this is the job of their dreams, they are scared stiff to make a mistake and extremely eager to please.

So while they start off with the best intentions, they are also desperate for the best answer for every scenario. They do their homework thoroughly and make sure they are able to answer every question positively and comprehensively. And just suppose that what they have done before doesn’t fit in quite with the truth. They think that they have to display the right competency or give the right answer, so they maybe bend reality a little. And if there is an answer that they don’t know the answer to, they don’t say so, they just guess, or even worse they make it up.

There is an old truism in recruitment, and I suspect in many other areas of life, that if you tell the truth you never have to remember anything. It is quite a powerful, liberating idea. You will never trip yourself up, you will never have to ask for a copy of your CV from your recruitment consultant, because you can’t remember what you said in it. You will never have to be ready with a quick explanation to hopefully explain away inconsistencies in your story.

And there is another added benefit, the employer will end up employing the real you, rather than the one you wanted to get across. And you know the worst result in all of this? When the recruiter doesn’t like the “you” that you are trying to portray, but would have preferred the regular person.

Tell the truth, it is so much easier when you remember everything.

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Before anybody sits down and does some serious career planning, you need to ask what are your priorities in life. Because until you clearly define those, you cannot hope to define what you want from your career.

I interview plenty of aspiring managers who profess to want to get to the very top. Very laudable, exactly what every recruiter wants to hear. But when you ask them about their own personal priorities they perhaps don’t want to work at weekends, can’t stay too late and work too many unsocial hours. They need a work-life balance. Again, very understandable.

But at some stage in your career you are going to have to invest. To invest your time, effort and focus. If your priority is keeping really happy home life, with a family who want to see you on a regular basis, then I doubt, seriously doubt, that you will be able to do the late evenings, the entertaining and the weekends necessarily to crack through the necessary layers.

Before you decide on what you want from your career, you need to decide what you want from your life.

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As predicted, March was a pretty poor showing for the motor industry. Headline figures of a 16% fall in sales masked a massive 40% drop in diesel sales. Looking at the headlines in Motor Trader this week, there are certainly mixed messages about what is happening in the marketplace. For instance used-car finance in February was up 15%, though in the first quarter used-car sales are down 5%. In their comment section, concern has been raised once again about the high level of PCP dependence in the industry, a dependence which is spreading across to used cars as well as new.

The concern is not just that we are building up a “hidden” problem, kicking down the road the problem of residuals until the market becomes unsupportable by manufacturers and prices start to drop. The issue is also that 48 month PCPs are tying customers in to longer contracts, from which they cannot extricate themselves and which lengthen the buying cycle. After all, the original idea was that PCPs would improve buying cycles, with customers signing up every 18 months to 2 years to a new vehicle.

The trouble is, if you rely on one particular type of sale, such as PCP, when you hit a perfect storm of falling consumer confidence, falling used-car prices and lengthening buying cycles the market can collapse. And when it collapses each of those problems merely are accentuated and feed on themselves.

None of which is bothering Mercedes-Benz at the moment, as they have just set a quarterly record for sales. Much of this can be attributed to a 17.2% increase in their sales in China, which let’s face it is a massive market. They averaged nearly 200,000 vehicles for each of the first three months of this year and are now well ahead of their rivals BMW as the world’s bestselling premium brand. And despite a small slowdown in North America, they would also have been pleased with their 2% rise across Europe, and particularly in Germany where they were up 5.2%. 10 years ago they would never have credited it, but their most popular models are now SUVs, ironic for a manufacturer that made its name selling some of the best limousines around.

Have a great weekend, enjoy the Masters (or MasterChef if you’re not partial to golf).

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Having any online interview is an unnatural situation for many of us, and needs a little practice. One of the most common mistakes, one that I am very used to seeing, is that you tend to look at the picture on screen. Unconsciously that makes you look shifty as you are not looking them straight in the eye.

So when you want to make a particular point strongly, especially at the beginning when you are keen to make a first impression, try looking at the WebCam instead. It has far greater impact. Imagine looking at a newscaster on the television who merely looks at their notes, or reads from a point well below the camera. It doesn’t look great.

The next time you have an online interview, when you want to look impressive look straight at the WebCam, your interviewer will feel that you are looking straight at them and it could make all the difference.

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We sometimes go through a run when an employer persuades a candidate to stay. You might want to get mad, but really it is just a cost of doing business.  And the more of the right people you choose, the more employers will want to keep them.

But what intrigues me about counter offers, and even the possibility of them, is how it affects an employer’s thinking. I reckon at least 40% of clients are reluctant to make an offer to a candidate if they think there is a chance it will be turned down. I have never been able to understand this.

It has resulted in some bad recruitment decisions, with people not offering the right one in case they get rejected. They might do, but then they could turn the job down for any number of reasons. If you lose them for the right reasons, then it is some consolation to know that you probably chose the right person, the one who was just too valuable to their current organisation.

And I wonder what a manager would say to a sales executive who took a similar approach with customers. “I didn’t want to offer them the deal because they might have turned it down”. Bluntly it makes little commercial sense.

Recruitment is a tricky process, even the best recruiters are only about 70% successful and most are well below that. But if you have the right processes, if you follow up properly after offers have been made and if you make sure you welcome people with open arms into the organisation, you can normally reduce the number of rejections by a substantial amount.

But if you don’t offer them the job in the first place, I reckon they won’t be joining you.

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I have heard 99% quite a lot recently. It is a bit of a cliché here in the office. I also heard it during Wimbledon last year. Whenever I hear it, I know that I can’t trust it.

Let me explain. Nearly the whole nation saw Wimbledon and watched Hawkeye. So you can all understand the old tennis cliché that the ball that is 99% out is 100% in. A ball just kissing the line is as “in” as a ball landing in the middle of the court.

Now let me speak as a recruitment consultant – if a candidate is ever offered a job and they tell me they are “99% certain they will accept”, they never do.

Or put it another way, a candidate who is 99% in, is 100% out. And I have not once been surprised by this maxim in 30+ years. During sales meetings, progress meetings and one to ones with my consultants, on every single occasion it has held good, and that is a lot of occasions.

I thought of this recently because we had a 90% conversation. And in that case the candidate was being entirely honest, indeed he ended up taking the role.

90% good, 99% bad.

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The Internet has changed everything. With one click of the mouse you can apply to hundreds of jobs, but so can everyone else.

While it is easier to apply, it is much more difficult to stand out.

And it is more difficult for companies to choose the right one, so the way they view and sift applications has also changed.

Because just as machines have helped with applications, they are also doing a lot of the selection. Programs that look at relevance, experience, character, stability and many other factors.  Sifting began with simple pre-qualifying questions, but now some recruiters use sophisticated readers to scan application letters and CVs against specific criteria. Scary.

As we go increasingly mobile, recruitment decisions are now being made on mobile phones and iPads rather than paper. So you need to ensure your CV will stand up to scrutiny and out from the crowd when viewed in these new formats.

So, what can you do?

First of all, read the advertisement carefully. What is the company looking for? Look at your CV, especially the “profile” section. Savvy applicants now make sure this profile matches almost exactly what is requested in the advertisement.

This is not for the benefit of humans, who rarely read profiles, but for computers who never tire of them.

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