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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Unconscious bias is not exactly a new thing in recruitment, but it is a bit of a buzzword at present.

It is the type of bias that all of us have, and applies most specifically when people are recruiting. Unconsciously we will all tend to favour a certain type, and while we may not discriminate illegally, we might still favour somebody from a similar background, a similar age, a similar height or even, people with beards, red hair or one that has been highlighted most recently, we discriminate against those with a body mass index of over 30.

Interestingly enough this type of bias is the most intractable to remove. Concentrating on objective measures like performance, track record, capability, professionalism are just very hard. Especially if you are not an experienced recruiter.

Where the debate is becoming most acute is over artificial intelligence, because no matter how hard you try to make computer systems impartial, they will only reflect the prejudices of those who have set up the program in the first place.

Let me give you a little example, recently the BBC ran an item about machine learning, they tried to teach a computer to spot the ideal selfie. It worked brilliantly, except the original sample they gave featured only young white women. Guess what, everything else was rejected as unsuitable.

Now that type of bias can be adjusted, but supposing your superefficient, super intelligent system slightly prefers people who listen to George Michael, and you have a standing order with Oxfam? And do not fool yourself, that information is out there and can be looked at.

The world is a scary place right now, lots of decisions we used to make are now done by machines. Surely we have a duty to make sure that they do the job better than us, not merely backup our imperfect prejudices?

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If you send me a CV, make sure it agrees with your LinkedIn profile.

Today is a heavily interconnected world. While your LinkedIn profile does not necessarily correspond with a legally binding document, such as ACV which purports to mirror your career exactly, nevertheless if I have a CV in front of me want to check its voracity, I will either check it against previous applications or against publicly available information.

In a world where it is so easy to apply for jobs, to create a convincing looking CV, to even get a convincing looking did Greece certificate online, employers need to be careful, and so do recruiters.

So if your CV shows me a beautifully stable, secure career and your LinkedIn profile tells me something different alarm bells begin to ring. But if you tell me the truth then almost certainly both things will look the same. And as I have mentioned before, you will also have much less to remember.

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A I, as it is known, is just starting to invade (and I use that word deliberately) all areas of our lives. And nowhere is this more true than in recruitment. You may not be aware, but systems out there, despite the advent of GDPR, are being developed that will look at your LinkedIn profile and make a decision about you.

But, and here is the scary part, it won’t just look at your LinkedIn information, though it is capable of making a decision about you on just that. It will also trawl your connections, your Facebook profile, your Twitter feed, and there it even talking about your Netflix, your Amazon and your Spotify histories. And in these days of open banking, your bank account and your credit history.

Imagine your application being turned down because the computer says you’re not linked to the right person, or because you listen to George Michael? Or you jumping straight to the top of the list because candidates who reviewed holidays in Bali on TripAdvisor are more likely to be creative?

I’m not saying that any of these are not relevant, what I do worry about for the future is how people will game this information, just like they have done on review sites. I am sure, because it is artificial intelligence, the systems will be developed to outwit the gamers, just like Google has developed systems to outwit search engine optimisation specialists.

The future is looking scary, isn’t it? Fans of Black Mirror (watch “Nosedive” but make sure it is not on your history!) will recognise the ethical dilemmas posed by making sure you get enough likes on your social profile to be viewed as valuable to society. If we are obsessed about it now, imagine what it will be like in the future.

Happy days.

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People who find themselves out of work do one of two things in my experience. Either they have a very high opinion of themselves and refuse to look at anything even slightly below the job they have just come out of, or they go completely the other way and look at anything. Insecurity and fear of being out of a job forever means they take the first thing that comes along. Even if it is completely inappropriate.

If you are in the unfortunate position of finding yourself unemployed, do not panic. But equally do not dismiss every job that comes your way because you will not stoop so low. The one thing you have in your situation that costs you nothing is time. Time to speak to people, to explore opportunities, to get known by other employers. And you never know where an opportunity or a conversation might take you.

The test I have always recommended is “If this was the only opportunity around in three months time, would I look at it?” If the answer to that is yes, then look at it now. You can always turn it down, but if it is the only game in town and it is interesting why not have a chat?

Good luck, it is not an easy market but on the other hand you have real skills. Believe in yourself and talk to as many people as possible and you’ll probably find the ideal opportunity.

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When I am looking at a CV, I want to make my own mind up. So I am not interested in your opinion of yourself. After all I would expect it to be high, surely you believe that you had the right skills to move on to the next role? And if you cannot say nice things about yourself, who can?

A CV that impresses me is normally from somebody who has made a difference to the companies they have worked for. Who can show me they have improved turnover by say 20%. Who have improved profitability by perhaps 50%, who have increased workshop efficiency by 10%.

So do not be tempted to give me a whole load of skills that I will ignore. Especially if you are a genuine performer. If you know you are, shout about it.

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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.



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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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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