“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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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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It really is a shame. I had a rant a couple of weeks ago about candidates not wasting their own time as well as mine by applying for jobs that they clearly had no qualifications for.

Now a slightly different rant for candidates who feel obliged to apply for the same job, or every single job that we have on our website, on a regular basis. There are a number of you, and you probably know who you are. But the first couple of times it happens we are quite patient – we duly reply and explain which roles you are right for and which are not appropriate.

The next time we point out that it’s the role that you applied for last week. If you were right last week then things are probably already happening, but if you weren’t right last week, it is unlikely you are right 7 days later.

The week after that we begin to run out of patience, and certainly after five or six weeks of this all of a sudden your emails are marked to go into our spam. Nothing personal here you understand, it is just simply we do not have the time to be courteous and reply to your application every time you decide to click a mouse.

Thousands of our candidates use our website properly and responsibly, a tiny minority clearly feel that if they click a mouse often enough, even on jobs they have applied for before, that they are actively looking for a job, actively making applications. I am not sure you are.

You might as well go onto Indeed and select the first 400 jobs that come up and press apply. It won’t do much good, but you might feel better at the end of it. But somewhere down the line an agency either has to decide to be rude and not reply to you, or polite and go to a load of hassle. And it won’t endear you to us.

There, rant over.

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There are hundreds of recruitment consultancies out there, many behave ethically, a number don’t. But then the same could be said of dealers, service departments and any other type of business.

But if you do ask an agency to help, or if you are approached about an opportunity then morally you should give the agency at least some chance of following through and introducing yourself. On a number of occasions recently we have spoken to a candidate and they have listened, probably identified who the company is and then made a direct application through their website.

The problem with this approach is that it makes us more and more reluctant to share proper information with candidates, as they can easily cut us out of the deal. And it also does the candidate no good at all, especially if you are dealing with a reputable organisation.

Because they will take the view that if you’re prepared to do that to the person introducing you (the agency only ever finds out when they do introduce your details in the client says “Oh we received those details directly 20 minutes ago through our website. Why did that happen?” In those situations this will not then be a curated introduction, but a situation where somebody has displayed a tendency to be at least duplicitous if not untrustworthy. They are traits that organisations are reluctant to employ.

So think about that when you’re trying to be clever. In bugs the hell out of us, it affects your chances. Oh and we won’t deal with you again, so it removes you from our register.

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You know it’s time to look for a new job. Perhaps you’re not getting on with your boss, or you’ve just been away on holiday for two weeks and promised your partner you will do something about your career when you get back to the UK.

So out comes your CV, already five pages long and you add your current position to the end of it. That’ll do won’t it?

Well no actually. This is the most important document you will prepare, that could determine the course of your career. So take as much care over it as you would do making sure your tax return is right, or that you haven’t been overcharged by the electricity company. Or that you don’t pay 10p more than you have to for that new washing machine, as you spend five hours comparing prices on the web.

Because it is much more important than that. It needs to be rewritten and redesigned every time, to make sure you deliver maximum impact. That you sell your story you don’t just tell it. That you create a compelling rather than just a competent document

Need some more advice? Check out our CV guide.

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We work in a frustrating industry, because businesses are so readily identifiable. And because there is no point in being in business if we cannot make money out of it.

Here is the issue, there are two situations where we as an agency can tell you very little. First of all, the client may be working confidentially. If you phone up and ask about the franchise and the location, and we answer then we have told you which business we are talking about. End of confidentiality.

So if we are recruiting for the Lada and Zastava dealer in Stevenage, there is likely to be only one. (Okay, I know the franchises disappeared a long time ago, but I didn’t want to embarrass any of my current clients).

Even if I say they are in the Home Counties, north of London, you are probably going to guess that it is between one of three dealers. Which is how rumours start.  So we have to be careful, and we have to respect the wishes of our client, especially in these days of GDPR.

And then we have the call out of the blue. Someone we don’t know asks ”Can you tell me what franchise and where it’s located please?” Bluntly, no. But let me explain why.

I know you find it difficult to believe, but agencies short of jobs will phone up to find out who the recruiting client is. Even more difficult to believe is that candidates will phone up and then apply directly, having told us they are not interested. It has even happened to us with candidates we trust, so there’s a very good chance that people who have no loyalty to us will bypass us.

This is our lifeblood, it is what we do. We try and put good people in front of good employers. And we try and respect our clients’ and candidates’ confidentiality completely.

So we’re not being awkward, but we often need more of a conversation with you than just give up the information immediately. In any case, it is often better to have somebody represent you professionally into an employer rather than be one amongst hundreds of applications.

But we are here to help.

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It is so easy to apply for a job nowadays. Advertisements allow you to submit your CV in a couple of seconds. Some people take even longer and craft a well-prepared letter.

I am not saying that we do not get creative from time to time, but often our clients are very specific. Take a recent job advertisement. We were looking for a Regional Operations Manager for an overseas distributorship. Automotive experience was essential.

In addition, on the first line of the client’s job spec, the ability to speak fluent Russian. So today I open up my inbox and there is a long, detailed letter from a very nice gentleman who speaks fluent Arabic and has worked only in the cosmetics industry.

Do me a favour, do not waste your time. I am all for “thinking outside the box” but you’ll need to satisfy at least one of the two criteria in our advertisement, either have worked in automotive or speak fluent Russian. And in truth the only way you would have got past us as gatekeepers was if you had both.

It probably makes you feel as if you are busy. But you do yourself no favours and you waste an enormous amount of time. Spend that time more productively looking for businesses for which your experience is relevant and approach them directly, rather than just waiting for job ads.

You are much more likely to have success.

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Recruiters often have a big problem with candidates who are so desperate not to be misunderstood that all they want to do is explain everything.

This might be on their CV – my record is 23 pages and I have no idea what it said after the first two. 6 seconds to make an impression? 2 pages, 650 words maximum, enough said.

Or it might be in an interview. Any interviewer will know the sort, you asked the question “Tell me about your current role” and they start “Well, before I begin….”. You know you’re in trouble – they’re probably going to go back to nursery school, take you through their education, their difficult time at university before their first apprenticeship, their marriage, their kids and all the holidays they’ve had before they eventually get back to talking about where they are at the moment.

It is the fastest route to the exit door.  You have to be disciplined – if you are this sort of person then ask somebody else to listen to you. Get them to stop you every time you go off subject.

Those old enough to remember it, or who have plugged into Dave, might have watched the Two Ronnies – the whole point of Ronnie Corbett sitting in his Red Chair going off at tangents was that it was a comedy.  It was meant to be funny and a caricature.

But most of us are busy people, if we ask a question we would like a direct answer. So nowadays if somebody utters the dreaded words “Let me put it in context” I will stop them. I’m not interested in the context, otherwise I would have asked it myself.

We all get annoyed at politicians dodging the question, you’re not likely to get very far at interview if you do the same yourself.

And you are not going to get as many laughs as Ronnie.

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I received a telephone call yesterday. It was a cold call but it was unusual, it did not go the normal way. We get targeted continually by telecoms, investment companies and the like. So on most occasions I just politely say that I don’t buy over the phone and put the phone down,

But something about this call made me stop. It was immediately clear that they had studied my website. They had looked at my LinkedIn profile and they had identified people who were common connections between us. So they were able to use names that I knew, companies that I dealt with and so I listened. In the end I did not end up buying, but I listened.

It tells me that a properly researched approach to a company will always succeed better than a “Dear Sir, I would really like to join your company/organisation as I have the perfect background. Yours faithfully” type of approach. If you research the company properly, look for the hooks that will make them stop and think then you have a good chance of them listening. Once they listen, you have a better chance than the next person getting a meeting.

The recruitment market is a competitive one, you need to get the edge if you’re going to be noticed.

There are some great assessment companies out there and there are some fantastic assessment centre programs that really work.

But equally a lot of people are making a lot of decisions on a lot of assessments that are not perfect.

I read an article last week that suggested that it might be time to can the face-to-face interview. That, because it relies on human reaction, human emotions and gut instinct, then surely it is time to get rid of the process? We know it doesn’t have to, but that’s what the article argued.

Assessment centres are so much better it said. Well they are possibly if they are set up properly and if they ask the right questions.

Many years ago we worked closely with an industrial psychologist who helped to set up a personality profiling tool. We discontinued the project, others had invested lots more and did it better online. Nevertheless it gave me a really valuable insight into the purpose of assessment and how it was carried out.

And they had helped one of the leading supermarkets who were having real problems finding the right checkout staff. Not surprisingly, they had put together an assessment program around a series of interviews. They were getting plenty of people through, but the people either didn’t stay the course or they weren’t very good at their job. This was surprising, as they were choosing the most numerate and literate amongst the candidates to do the job. They figured the ability to read and to add up was pretty crucial for somebody at the checkout.

Except, of course, it isn’t. In an age where barcodes are ubiquitous and computers do all of the adding up for you, why do you need people who can duplicate this effort? What they needed, and it becomes really obvious when you point it out, is people who could recognise different shapes. Why? Because it is quite important to tell the difference between a wholemeal roll and a ciabatta, or between an apple and a pear or between a plum tomato and an organic tomato. Those were the skills they needed, but they were testing for completely the wrong thing.

So I sometimes throw my hands up in despair when candidates fail an assessment with a manufacturer because as a general manager they are too “detail orientated” and not “strategic” enough. Why?

“Retail is detail” is an age-old truism. We are not looking for people who want to conquer the world, as Daksh Gupta, CEO of Marshalls put it to me, great general managers are great shopkeepers, they are not global strategists.

Test for the right thing and you might get the right people.

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