We presume because you know you cannot get a job at the level you have been used to. So you think your background will scare off future employers.

I’m tempted to say that if you have previously been very successful, and you feel your CV will be intimidating, then perhaps you are looking for the wrong role? Or perhaps you are going about it the wrong way.

It is always difficult for someone to take a step back in their career, both for the new employer and for the individual. Will they genuinely be happy going back a few steps?

In this situation my advice is usually that you are unlikely to get such a job just from your CV, much more likely to do so from your personal contacts. By explaining to people who may previously have been competitors your situation, they may well be prepared to give you a go. After all they know you won’t let them down and they know you definitely know what you’re doing.

Toning down a CV is difficult, if you have been a sales manager are you suggesting you should put yourself down as a sales executive? Because that would be inaccurate, and in reality I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Perhaps fact by focusing less on your achievements and more on the nature of the job and how much of the more menial tasks you carried out, you might be able to tip the balance. But you are what you are, work out a way of making that attractive.

If you do want to take a step back then maybe it’s also a time to change industries. Perhaps to one that you’ve always wanted to join but it’s never been the right time. Because by moving sideways this way, you nearly always have to take a backward step. And you could do so without feeling that your career was going backwards as well. And if your old industry suddenly picks up, everyone will understand why you took the steps you did.

Many people who find themselves on the job market, especially if they have been made redundant, are determined not to go backwards in their career.

And everyone can completely understand that. So they restrict themselves to jobs that are at the same level or above the one they’ve been doing. Sometimes even if this means looking at smaller organisations with much lower levels of responsibility.

How important is a job title to your career? Well it depends really how you view your chances in the market, the likelihood of finding the right thing and getting some much-needed income back into your bank account.

But if you are confident in your own ability, then in a few years time, looking through the rear view mirror, taking an interim role at a lower level, or a role at a lower level that grows into a much bigger role, will not really affect you at all. Employers will understand that 2020 and 2021 were difficult years. They will understand that somebody who was flying high in, say, the hospitality industry had to find something else.

These are testing times for many jobseekers, though there are signs that the economy is beginning to grow again. For many getting back into work and earning is more important than finding the perfect opportunity at the moment. Remember such roles can quickly grow into much bigger responsibilities, or more attractive opportunities may well appear.

The important thing is that you understand why you are doing it, and above all you do not limit your options. Talk to as many people as possible, you may be surprised how far it leads you.

Jobseekers need to be prepared for this, as we are seeing it happen more and more. Is it illegal? We don’t think so, although there are certain rules around recruitment agencies deliberately advertising jobs at inflated salaries to attract candidates.

However, if an employer does it then there is little legal redress, you merely have a decision to make.

First of all, what is the reason for the reduced salary? Perhaps you do not have quite the experience they are looking for, or alternatively there are plenty of candidates around at a much lower salary level. The employer cannot bring themselves to quite pay the full rate when there are cheaper alternatives.

But perhaps the applicant has been out of work for some time. Perhaps the employer judges them to be in a vulnerable position.

For the jobseeker this is always a nuanced decision. You have to ask whether you would want to work for an employer who would do this to you. Though in reality it may be the HR or finance department demanding the reduction, not the person you are going to be reporting to.

It will also depend on whether you have any other alternatives. Because if you don’t, it is a choice between being paid and continuing to look for a new role.

A test I always suggest candidates use is “Would I have considered this had it been advertised at this salary originally?”

Because if the answer is that you would, then you are probably foolish not to consider it now. Business, after all, is all about negotiation and a deal is never done until contracts are issued. Although the economy is rebounding, you might be foolish not to consider such a role.

In reality it is always best to point out to the employer that you are disappointed but that you will accept. And you probably will have no compunction about continuing to look, in case the right thing comes along at the right money. And of course, in a year’s time when you have proven your worth to the organisation, you can then tackle your salary package and see if there is an opportunity to have it lifted to the level you think is correct.

One slightly frustrating aspect of this, naturally, is that the same HR departments who cleverly tried to undercut salaries where they can, are extremely careful not to be accused of discrimination. So it rarely happens where this is a possibility, and ironically many of the people missing out are middle-aged, white males. We wonder whether in the future this could become an issue.

One area that many jobseekers fall down on, especially in the interview, is not understanding what is required when asked a “competency-based” question.

I am not a great fan of these interviews, as somebody who is properly coached can do exceptionally well, score very highly, without ever having demonstrated the particular ability in their own career. They just have to know how to answer the question.

Equally, by answering the question incorrectly you will automatically not score well, and be deemed not to have the required characteristic.

What is a competency-based question? It is a question that asks you to display a particular skill, ability or characteristic.

“Tell me about a time when you had to go the extra mile for a customer”. “How do you deal with difficult colleagues?” “Tell me when you had to produce a difficult piece of work to a strict deadline”

When faced with these types of questions, very often interviewees will be a little clueless. They might say, well these types of problems don’t really occur that often, or it doesn’t really apply to me because I always look after my customers and don’t have to do any more for any individual and so on. Such answers will score 0 on the interviewer’s score sheet, whether you are right or wrong.

The best interviewees will take something like the last question and say “we are always working to strict deadlines. Let me give you an example, recently I had to produce a report for an important customer but we were extremely busy at work. I took it home over the weekend, analysed exactly what they needed and wrote the report in my free time on a Sunday. We beat the Monday deadline comfortably and won the contract”

A well-trained candidate will say something like that. It may not be true, they probably won’t be asked to prove it, but it will display the competency a big tick in the box for working to deadlines.

As I say, I hate the line of questioning, I think well-trained candidates do well, badly trained candidates do badly. That is not the point of an interview.

Nevertheless, be prepared. You may be asked to do one of these and it is best you understand what they are looking for and answer accordingly.

Many employers are using a whole battery of online tests to judge jobseekers suitability before they even get to the interview stage.

We all ask ourselves whether this is a truly efficient way of filtering candidates for a potential role, but the reality is that this type of recruitment will be here to stay for some time, until somebody comes up with something better.

The issue for many is that these tests have become so ubiquitous that people who are applying for loads of jobs, have almost a full-time job filling out application forms and completing tests.

And the trouble is, if you do not treat each test seriously then you are not likely to get through any of the stages in any case, so what is the point.

Apart from the fact that just using online applications to find your next role is genuinely not the best methodology, you need to be selective, especially if many people have asked you to complete a similar process.

Is this a role you would genuinely take? Do you genuinely have the skills to do the job? Are you likely to be in the running if there are other strong contenders?

If the answer to all of those is yes, then give it your full attention. And when you do carry out complicated assignments, fill out detailed application forms or complete personality profiles, you will find that you are much, much more practised when you see this next time. But also find a way to save your answers, so that if something similar comes up again you already have a template to go from. This is particularly important when you are asked to explain, for instance, why you are suited to this role. Or explaining how you have had an impact on the company you are currently working for. Such types of questions might get repeated again, and though they need adapting, having a ready-made template is useful.

In short, be selective about the roles you spend an enormous amount of time applying for, but use the experience profitably. Even if you end up turning down the role, the practice may well turn out to be very important in the future.

We coach many people for interviews. It is an essential part of our outplacement process, if jobseekers can get themselves in front of employers then they do not want to fall at this hurdle.

And what is the biggest issue for those in interview? That they get in their own way.

What do I mean by that? You either get so nervous that you talk too much, or you refuse to communicate at all. Interviewers judge people on many things, but they have considerable frustrations. Especially if they are meeting a whole list of people in a short period of time.

Their biggest frustrations of those who talk too much, then every time you ask a question they give you the background, they explain exactly why the answer will not be quite as good as you think, they tell you the detail of the story or they use that infamous phrase “let me go back in my career to give you a little bit of context.”

You need to stand back and look at yourself. Understand what this is doing to the interview process. And the best way to do this is to watch politicians being interviewed.

Because the ones that really get up everyone’s noses are those that never get to the point, those that talk an awful lot around a subject but never give you an opinion, never give you a straight answer. So if I ask you how your sales were last year, I really don’t want you to tell me how good they were in 2016. I really do not need you to explain that coronavirus caused problems. I am not looking for an in-depth economic assessment before you tell me they were down by 20%.

Much better that you answer “they were down by 20%, would you like to know why that was better than any of my competitors?”

And if you are in the “yes/no” school of communication, you just need to get out of that habit. In response to the question about sales last year we don’t need to hear “I don’t know” or “down 20%”. Just a little bit more explanation, just a little bit more conversation, just a little bit more interaction.

Interviews are two-way conversations. Understand that, communicate properly but succinctly and you are much more likely to do well.

As we speak to more and more jobseekers, they are telling us that the process of applying for a job is getting more and more complicated.

This will often happen when jobs are in short supply, and particular groups are desperate to find work. Everybody applies for the job at the same time, the only way employers have to control the flow is either make it more difficult to apply, or demand more information upon which they can filter.

But blindly sending in job applications is not the only way to find a new job. If that is your only strategy, then please think again. You may only ever have worked for large organisations, and you may feel most comfortable in that environment. But they are the ones in particular who have very well organised application processes, taking many hours in some cases to complete.

Look at other sectors, other employers, smaller organisations. Many of those will accept a direct approach. Many of those will recruit without a formal process, making it much easier to get a foot in the door.

Exploit your own network (in a good way). We all know people, many the same age of us, who are having or who have experienced the same issues. They may well know of an opportunity at work, they may be able to point you in the right direction with another colleague of theirs.

Are you looking for a permanent solution or a temporary earner to get you over the next few months? There are still plenty of short-term jobs in response to the massive expansion of some parts of the economy. Retail is opening up very rapidly at the moment, and some are predicting a boom over the next few months. Restaurants similarly.

You may have very particular career goals in mind, and those aims are laudable. But if your primary concern is paying the rent next month then somebody else might be able to provide you with that salary. Especially as we emerge from lockdown.

Just continuing to apply blindly online in the hope that something will come up may not be the best strategy. See what else there is around in the meantime, it may well surprise you. Besides, for many getting out of the house and doing something productive for a change, even in a completely different environment, is what many of us want.

Good luck!

When you start writing a CV the trap lots of people fall into is to produce a job description. In many roles what you do is already known.

What a recruiter wants from your application or CV is information that tells them about you, not about the role of a sales manager or receptionist. They are not going to phone the MD and say “I’ve had an application from a sales executive who seems to be in contact with customers. Just what we want”.

They all want people who can achieve, who can have a positive impact, who are reliable. What they don’t know is how many products you sell, how many people you manage, what targets you have. Whether you have achieved them.

Managers – I know you are required to maximise profit, minimise costs, hit targets, manage people, deal with suppliers. That is what you do.

Put it another way, if David Beckham put a CV together you wouldn’t see “Football is a game played between two teams of 11 players………..” He would assume the reader had some prior knowledge.

He might say “My role was to patrol the right side of midfield, tackling back where appropriate, passing to the forwards and shooting at goal when in the right part of the field” He might.

But he would be much better advised to say :

Manchester United – 265 games, 95 goals
England – 115 games, 58 as Captain, 17 goals

What he has done is quite impressive – what he was doing is pretty boring on paper.

Losing a job at any time is never ideal. And for you personally clearly it could present short and long-term problems.

But the question is really aimed at jobseekers who feel that it is more difficult to find a new job when not working, as there will always be question marks over why they are on the market.

Whether times are good or bad, my reply to anyone is simple. If you think it is a problem, then it is.

What do I mean by that? Put simply, in an interview situation while the interviewer will try to remain as objective as possible, they will always pick up on lots of non-verbal cues.

The person who thinks their current situation is a problem, one that they wish they were never asked a question about, gives away that impression immediately. Any answer they give is unconvincing or seems evasive.

But the reality is that, providing you have done nothing criminal or grossly negligent, most recruiters recognise that these things happen. Sometimes you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. A change of manager, a change of company policy leaves you out in the cold.

So if you do not think it is a problem, and spend no time defending it or justifying your position, then it probably won’t be a problem in the interview.

If you have fallen out with your boss and agreed to part company then say so. One word of warning, never criticise a previous employer, merely say “Wrong place, wrong time. I don’t blame them, but we decided to call it a day.” Or “I am sure he (or she) had their reasons but I could not agree with the direction the company was taking. So I need to look elsewhere”

Providing it is the truth, it will ring true. And it is no big deal, it is simply a decision that you have made.

There are a lot of people out of work. Don’t beat yourself up badly because you find yourself in that position.

There’s plenty to worry about at the moment, and plenty of pressure on people who have lost their jobs, or who want to move to pastures new.

But, as top sportsmen always say, worry about what you can control, don’t waste your time and effort on what you can’t.

And one of the most elementary things to control is your spelling. You would be amazed at the number of people who do not use spell check, having typed out their CV oh so carefully.

Of course it could be that they do use it, but profoundly disagree with the outcomes and ignore them, but I suspect not.

Here are three of my favourite words that get spelt incorrectly:

  • Curriculum Vitae: It literally means “The way or course of life”. But most people just know it goes at the top of what the Americans call your Resume. Either don’t use it, or spell it correctly. It is the first thing that gets noticed.
  • Guy Liddall (Our MD): note that it is not spelt LiDL, or Liddell. (He’s not precious about it normally, as no one gets it correct unless they have read it somewhere. But the fact you didn’t bother to look it up tells me something about you, and it will definitely tell employers something).
  • Principal: Principals are sometimes heads of businesses, heads of schools or heads of retail outlets like car dealerships. They may not have many principles, that is for you to judge, but the correct spelling is Principal.

English is a difficult language to spell. Unlike many languages, we have not taken the time to work out how to do it logically, so you need the help of spellcheck.

Don’t hesitate to use it, many employers will use it as a benchmark of your literacy. In reality it just tells me how careful you are. And I would quite like careful people working for me.

In over two decades in recruitment, how often have I heard that? And how often have I seen some individuals rigidly sticking to that dogma, and finding that it takes longer to get back into work, or eventually they settle for something more junior.

You see when you begin your job search it is easy to get specialist, fixated on the absolutely ideal role. And half the time people who move successfully onto the next stage of their career find something they did not expect. Something that they had not considered at the outset.

So my biggest worry for jobseekers is that they try to narrow the field too much in the early days. Rather than looking at a wide range of opportunities, in different industries, they like to stick to what they know.

Now I am not suggesting that you send off 10,000 job applications in the hope that something is going to stick to the wall. But once you understand what your skills are, and which other sectors and industries might welcome those skills, then why not explore?

Apart from anything else, a job seeker who has several opportunities on the go is likely to be more confident, less pressured and a better candidate than somebody who is relying on just one opportunity.

If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself out of work, I always suggest this test; If I was still looking in three months time, would I consider this? Because if the answer is yes, then why not look at it now? You can always turn it down, you can always ask them for more money, or negotiate a better job role. But you can do nothing if you simply walk away.

Once you start getting inundated with job offers, then you can start to narrow the field. Before then speak to as many employers as possible. You never know, you might find something you like.

How I hate that question, but I always practice it with my jobseekers, because lazy interviewers love to use it.

There are, of course, no right or wrong answers. But it is the way that you handle the question that is important. Although I would suggest that “I can never get out of bed on a Monday morning” is probably not an easy one to explain away.

In the old days, the cliched answer was “People tell me I work too hard”. But all recruiters have heard that before.

But in all honesty, we all know we have a weakness in our work. Or a blindspot. It may be that you get too involved in the detail, or that you start to manage those reporting to you too much, or perhaps you can never say no, or you have a tendency to leave a couple of details unfinished, because you are concentrating too much on the big picture.

Whatever the weakness you think you have, it is fine to be honest about it so long as you explain how you deal with it. Perhaps you would say “from time to time I find myself managing my people too much. But I make sure they tell me if I’m doing that, so I back off.”

Or perhaps

“I can get completely fixated on the task in hand, sometimes to the annoyance of my colleagues. But I recognised it, and asked them to tell me when I’m becoming a pain.” Or “I used to get too much into the detail, but I have learnt to leave that to others and have become much more productive as a result.”

Recognising your weaknesses and dealing with them is a real strength. Demonstrating that to employers who are trying to catch you out is a real plus. All I suggest you do is think through this question before you go to an interview, like many others, so you can deal with it effectively when you come across it, rather than hesitate rather embarrassingly and come out with something rather unconvincing or even worse shoot yourself in the foot.

Some years ago, when I was presenting to an HR conference (you remember, when more than one person was allowed to get together in a room and listen to others) we carried out a survey among our candidates.

Now bear in mind this was at least four years ago, and the levels of automation we see today were nothing like as advanced, nor were they relied upon so much.

Nevertheless, I was very surprised that amongst highly qualified, well researched individuals, the way they were dealt with through the recruitment process was pretty appalling.

In something like 60% of cases, they never received any acknowledgement for any application. In 90% of cases the acknowledgement was not from a real human being, and in only 5% of cases were they contacted by a human being to take things further.

I find this staggering. As a recruitment consultancy we would receive at least 50 applications a week. We made it a matter of faith that every single application was responded to (okay there were a number of candidates who applied to us for the same role every day for months, after the first couple of times we did get bored) it sometimes lead to difficult conversations, and sometimes we had to explain that we simply did not recruit for people in their sector, or that their experience was not appropriate for what our clients were seeking. And sometimes they persuaded us that we were wrong, and occasionally there would be an even more difficult conversation if they felt we were being unfair.

But we felt we owed it to everybody who took the time to apply to us to explain why we could help, or why we could not. And I do find it really surprising that employers, many of whom have highly successful customer models, should not treat applicants to their organisation with at least as much importance as customers.

And you would never expect someone to ignore a customer, or send them a note to say if you haven’t heard from us within three weeks assume we haven’t got the item you are looking for. But that’s what most of you are doing to job applicants. People who might think they have found the job of their dreams and are anxiously waiting for the answer. In times of high unemployment there is nothing more dehumanising and discouraging for many people.

And with today’s level of automation I find it amazing how much employers ask applicants to do before they even get to a shortlist stage. We have heard of some absolute horror stories with applications taking two or three hours to do before moving onto the next stage.

Employers you have a duty to all of the jobseekers out there to be honest with them. You may not go on to employ them, but you should be giving them at least clear direction on whether they’re likely to be successful with you.

One of the biggest challenges we find with jobseekers, especially if they have been in a job for a long time, or it is in a very specialised area, is convincing them that they have really useful skills for other employers.

In fact this is often our first task. To explore with them exactly what the challenges have been in previous positions, how they have coped with those challenges and how they have added value for their employers.

And the strange thing is? Everybody has added value, and everybody has skills that can work elsewhere. But it is often a matter of confidence, or the effort of taking a leap into the unknown.

But if you have worked in, say, a pub for a long time then you have probably been good at it. And probably good at dealing with people. And almost certainly reliable, making sure you turn up on time and well presented.

All skills that employers are looking for. And many are looking for the individual and not the experience. How you come across, how you interact with people, how disciplined you are. All skills you have almost certainly learnt elsewhere and can easily transfer to another environment, once you have learnt the ropes.

Every day we see tales of musicians working as delivery drivers, sales managers working in A&E, technicians working in the maintenance departments of hospitals. The list is endless, but everybody has skills they can transfer elsewhere, are you confident enough to do so, can you make the effort to start again?

But it might, just might, be the start of a new career. And one you enjoy much more than the career you had before.

There are many industries and sectors that have a very flat management structure. It makes them more efficient, and it reduces management costs if it is done the right way.

But it does present organisations with one major challenge. How do you prepare somebody for the next step in their career if that step is too big to take?

Because this is a real issue that faces many in such industries. They feel they are ready for the next step, but how do you go from a departmental manager responsible for 6 to 8 people to a general manager, say, responsible for 100? How do you get promoted from a small town responsibility to having to lead a big city? It is a conundrum.

First of all, speak to your bosses. They may be able to give you guidance, and indeed explain what they need from you to convince them you are ready for the next step.

Perhaps you might like to start talking to other employers. Perhaps their structure is not quite so flat, giving them time to promote people to, say, assistant store manager and proving themselves there. Before taking on the big responsibility.

Or perhaps you look at a completely different industry. One where people with talent will get promoted at regular intervals without the need for massive leaps.

Because such massive leaps are always a risk. Suppose that you cannot handle the new responsibility? What happens if the market moves against you just as you take on a big new role?

Such failures can leave you marked as a senior manager who could not hack it, rather than a promising junior manager with much potential. Through no fault of your own.

Sometimes the right career move is just a question of luck. But the most successful careers are built by people who recognise that luck and take advantage of it.

Nothing is certain, there are no hard and fast rules as every situation is very different. But one thing is for sure, the pandemic has meant a massive change in the U.K.’s economic landscape. And change always creates good opportunities. Good luck!

Are we really putting our faith in Artificial Intelligence? Is it really that good yet? I don’t think so.

I have been involved in recruitment for well over 30 years. I have seen plenty of successful and unsuccessful recruitment strategies during that time. But I do have to question the legality, the effectiveness and indeed the morality behind the current vogue for using artificial intelligence in recruitment.

Please do not get me wrong. I am an avid supporter of technology, we had our first website in 1995 only three years after they had invented the world wide web. And it transformed our business.

And I understand the need for organisations to find a way to reliably filter applicants from a torrent of applications in the current economic climate.

But the way that some of these systems are being applied is truly shocking. I heard the other day that a reputable, highly respected multinational, was using artificial intelligence in automated interviews for senior management appointments.

And just like in Little Britain, when “Computer says no” just two minutes after the interview, you have to question the result. Especially as the individual was actually known to the organisation already, and they interviewed them anyway.

New technology is great, but just like vaccines have to go through an extremely rigorous testing process, so does something as fundamental as a recruitment system.

Just because you don’t have enough positive, action words in your CV does not mean you are a bad candidate. Just because the facial recognition software didn’t see you smile enough, accentuate enough words, use the right vocabulary at the right time, does not mean you do not know your job.

And what about feedback loops? Using algorithms to determine from those selected who performed best during the interview process and even who finally got selected.

If the recruiters themselves are discriminatory afterwards, then that feedback loop will automatically go back in and be discriminatory at the sifting stage.

There has been much talk about unconscious bias. What about AI bias based on unconscious bias? Surely that’s even worse as it is hidden, cannot be discovered, and because no individual has been responsible, it is difficult to litigate against.

So we do need to think carefully. Plenty of suppliers will say they have this covered, but how can you tell? Recruitment is a very human activity, just like dating. And I read about plenty of complaints about dating apps – and they have been doing this a lot longer.

We have worked with recruiters for years, both on behalf of jobseekers and as a recruitment agency.

And for the past 14 years the message has always been the same. It is tempting not to show the salary, because you might be able to get away with paying less for the right candidate, but it is completely counter-productive.

Let me explain why. We’re speaking to lots of jobseekers are present, many of whom have gone through recruiters to their online application process for a job that looks attractive. They have attended assessment days, either online or even worse at present in person. They have been interviewed, reference checked and personality profiled. And then been offered a job at so far below what they expect to earn, because earnings have never been mentioned, that they feel insulted, and abused.

And so does the recruiter.

Even if you show a wide range of salary, it is completely counter-productive not to give your candidates any indication. It will substantially reduce the number of appropriate candidates who reply, and substantially increase the ones who are not right for you. And in today’s market, with so many applicants out there, anything you can do to reduce the number is surely worth it?

Because your ideal candidate may be somebody who is already working, they will look at it and decide there is no salary, it will probably be too high for me. Or they won’t be paying enough. Or I cannot be bothered.

But if you do show the salary, even in a wide range, people can see that it applies to them, that the level they have earned at is appropriate, that they will not be wasting their time.

And as a recruiter you can then be more choosy, knowing that every candidate who’s applied to you is not speculative, knowing that at the end of the process you’re not going to lose 50 or 60% of the people you offered because you salary package is wrong.

It is tempting to think that in the current climate you can steal someone because they have to find work. That is not the basis for a long-term mutually beneficial relationship. And if you do think you can steal someone, why not say so upfront. If they are in that situation at least they know what they going in for.

Stop wasting people’s time.

There have been lots of statistics over the years, showing people the most effective way of applying for a job.

You might be surprised to learn that actually making a job application is probably one of the least effective ways. Which is why it always saddens me to hear of people who say they have made thousands of job applications with no success. My immediate thought is always, perhaps your time could have been better spent.

The last time I looked at such a survey, using recruitment consultancies, personal contacts, applying directly to HR departments with an introduction, even walking in off the street and leaving a CV provided produced far better results than applying to jobs directly.

Making job applications was only about 5% effective, compared to using personal contacts which was up around 55% and some of the other methods somewhere in between.

So if you really want to kick start your job search, speak to recruitment specialists, speak to your contacts, get back in touch with old friends, talk to companies directly. But job applications, everybody else can do that at the touch of a button, how are you going to stand out from the crowd?

The power of networking effectively is extraordinary. Done properly people who you have known for many years can be recruited to point you in the right direction.

But we have to convince many jobseekers that it is not a full frontal assault. It is not grabbing 5000 of your closest friends and sending them a copy of the your CV and asking for a job. It is not sending them a very long message explaining your predicament, your experience and what you need.

It is about starting a very personal conversation.

And if you remember the days when we can meet people in the pub, almost months ago, think about how your conversations used to go.

If you have not met somebody for a very long time, you are unlikely to start off with a 20 minute statement, not allowing them to get a breath not allowing them to get a word in edgeways. You are not gonna make it all about you and nothing about them. Or at least that is the way you operate, you might be surprised to learn why people do not want to repeat the experience.

So networking is subtle, opening up conversations with people you haven’t spoken to for a while. Finding out how they are and asking them for a bit of help.

The all-out assault is tempting, and it saves you a lot of further contact. But it is not very effective. At the moment, especially, the human touch is difficult to achieve. But if you can do it in your networking efforts, in trying to widen your contacts on LinkedIn, in trying to leverage past acquaintances in your search for a new role, it is worth the effort.

Darren’s employer had had to make redundancies. And they had the very difficult choice to choose between two successful production managers.

Luckily for Darren they had purchased an outplacement package for him with Workagain. Like many in such a situation Darren was extremely worried about how he would be viewed in the marketplace. And what sort of skills he had that were transferable and how he should begin to find a new role. This was a tough, difficult emotional time for him.

First of all we discussed his previous career in depth. We isolated many of the spectacular successes he had had in his career, and how he should articulate those to any prospective employer. In doing so, he quickly realised what value he had been able to add, and how he could put that experience to use in different sectors.

Having completely rewritten his CV, we then concentrated on how to approach the interview. As many were being conducted online, this was an experience he had not had before. But he quickly understood how to maximise the opportunities to show future employers what he could add.

After just a few weeks Darren was presented with a very different problem, how to manage multiple job offers from different employers! Having accepted a role probably a little too far from home, he was then re-approached by another employer with something very close to where he lived, at a more senior level.

We were able to help him negotiate what was a tricky and uncomfortable situation so he exited it in the most professional manner possible.

As a result he is now working close to home in a new challenging role.

Darren’s Testimonial

“I unexpectedly found myself in the job market and with the COVID situation, I was worried about job hunting and my confidence was very low.

After a complete CV overhaul, practice interview with Guy, feedback, assessments and talking through strategies helped me refocus and rebuild my confidence.

A few weeks on, after a first very difficult phone call with Johanna, I’ve secured 3 interviews, resulting in 2 job offers delivered!

Can’t recommend or speak highly enough of Workagain, it’s all in the name.”

As the world has changed over the past year, and many more are working from home, there has been a growing trend to produce CVs that include no address details at all. You may well get a mobile number and an email address, but nothing else.

Of course you have used a covering email, stating exactly where you are, or what areas you would like to find working, and how you can be contacted.

But by omitting any address information, and I have seen some CV writers out there suggest that this information is irrelevant, then recruiters simply do not know where you are located. And those that are fortunate enough to work in sectors that are recruiting, are inundated with people.

So if in the automatic processing of your CV no location can be picked up, then you are likely to go into a “hold” pile, to be returned to when they have time. Which might be next June.

So while the chief executive of a major corporation could probably live almost anywhere, because the company will relocate them, for your average worker it is quite important where you are based. And given the choice, most employers will choose employees close to them rather than at the other end of the country.

In a competitive job market, the first job of the recruiter is to reject quickly those who are not right. If they are not sure of your location, will they give you the benefit of the doubt? If they are struggling to find the right person then maybe, if they are not then you probably haven’t got a hope of getting onto the shortlist.

We know that some people worry about security and identity theft, but with the prevalence of online information, your CV is not going to be the first place they look to do this. And so long you don’t add your passport number, driving licence, wife’s name and so on, they will not have much to go on they can’t get from the electoral register.

So give them the information they need. A postcode at the very minimum, your post town and even your address just to complete the picture.

So they know where you are.

Imagine being on immigration control at Heathrow airport, especially post Brexit.

You will need to look at thousands of passports every day, quickly turn to the right page and work out who this person is in front of you. Do they look like their photo, where they have come from and are they eligible to enter the country?

A boring and repetitive job. But made much easier because most passports conform to an international standard. They can be scanned electronically and by a human quickly and easily.

Now imagine that the same person standing in front of your immigration desk had got creative. They had decided to add a few more photos and put all of their information in a different order. And made it difficult to be scanned by a machine. How quickly do you think they would get through?

Now think about your CV. In a world where there may be hundreds of applications for the same position, how quickly will your CV get through if it is in an unusual layout. Or if the information that recruiters need to find is difficult to pull out of it.

How quickly do you think you will get through their queues? How often do you think you will get rejected?

Instinctively I think you know the answer.

Which is why we get really boring with CV layouts. Make sure they are logical, clear and concise. And contain all of the information that recruiters expect to see. Because if they don’t, then very quickly you can find yourself being rejected for a job you have the perfect background for.

How frustrating is that?

Your CV needs to be written in plain English, people need to be able to understand what you do and not misunderstand it.

So quite a useful test (and I do realise I am making an assumption that you are married and have in-laws) is to give your CV to the in-laws, or failing that to an aunt or uncle or someone slightly disconnected from you. Ask them to scan your CV for 10-20 seconds and tell you what you do.

Now some of them may have a head start, and already understand exactly what your job is. But try and choose someone who doesn’t, because in reality it will be somebody who does not know you at all who will be picking up your document and trying to decipher it. And if they cannot do so easily and quickly you may quickly get rejected.

Sadly the world today is all about instant impact. And if you cannot make that, then you fall behind others in the queue.

So a CV that is well laid out, simple to navigate and clear is essential. It is not about flashy colours, good illustrations and so on, because recruiters want to find the information they need to know in the places they expect them to be.

So try the in-laws test. How quickly does your CV tell them what they need to know?

We speak to people from many industries. Jobseekers who are desperate to find their next role. People who have genuinely achieved and made a real difference during their career.

But speak to them in an interview, and every improvement, every positive change, every target hit, every budget made seems to be down to somebody else.

Which might well be true, and the truly modest amongst us will never take credit for anybody else’s hard work. The truly sensible amongst us will also recognise that we have made a contribution.

Here is the problem. At interview most recruiters don’t value modesty, reticence and underachievement. They are looking for precisely the opposite. People who make things happen, people who are successful, people who make a difference.

So unless you get into the habit of blowing your own trumpet, explaining clearly how you were able to contribute, how your team outperformed, how you were always valued when compared to your peers, then you will not stand out.

Because it is highly probable that most of the others on the shortlist are doing just that. Even if in reality they have achieved very little, they will still take credit for small successes.

So when people say “I don’t want to blow my own trumpet” our reply is “You must, because nobody else will do it for you”.

Unless you take your mother to the interview, that is.

Anybody who suddenly finds themselves out of work will suffer a range of emotions. And one of them will almost certainly be panic, what can they do for the rest of their career?

Many will find themselves in this situation because their sector has been very badly hit by the current crisis. Completely understandable, but if you have always worked in the sector, how can you find work?

The fact is that all of us have skills that are transferable to other jobs. But you might not recognise it.

Perhaps you have been working in the hospitality industry – good with people, used to working long hours. Who needs those other skills?

Or you have been working in a highly specialised engineering environment, what else can you do?

I suppose there are two parts to the answer. First of all, are you looking for a permanent solution, or something that will get you by until we get through this crisis? Because many of the industries that are currently decimated will surely come back in some form or another in two or three years time, perhaps even sooner than that.

And just as many sectors are closing down, others are opening up. You probably do not need reminding that delivery drivers are in greater demand than ever. Or that, with the explosion of green energy projects around, that sector needs engineers, technicians and technical experts like never before.

Or with Brexit on the horizon, the health service and even the teaching profession will be running short of new recruits at some stage next year.

And your transferable skills, whether they are technical, whether they are people skills or your natural competitiveness are equally at home in other industries and other sectors.

And the key skills that most of us have that employers really want are reliability, intelligence and trustworthiness. If they can find the people with the right attitude, they can train in their technical skills. Never underestimate your ability to do a job properly and conscientiously. It is a great starting point for any recruiter.

Writing to employers blind in the current market might seem like a waste of time. When they are not recruiting, why bother? Except that you might hit them at the right time, just before they start to think about recruitment, just as they are about to spend money.

Understand that every recruiter wants to solve a problem. In the current market, where margins are tight and where organisations need to adapt rapidly, it is even more important that jobseekers understand what potential employers’ problems are.

We often hear of people making thousands of applications. The very fact that they are able to do so without hitting home means that their approach is not working. 

So get more targeted. You need to do some research, find out what they do, what their problem are, who you know who works there – it might mean much more work in making each application, but if it is 10, 15 or even 20 times more effective, then the effort is worthwhile.

Perhaps you are in marketing. Study how the company presents themselves, how they communicate through social media, through the press. What you can find out about them on Google. Normally the problems are quite obvious to someone experienced in marketing. Rather than suggest a solution to their problem, explain how you have managed a similar problem and generated results.

Supposing you are an engineer and you see through reviews that they have a poor reputation for aftersales and customer service. Explain how you have corrected such problems in your career and the results you were able to produce. 

Maybe the results are not easily visible publicly, perhaps you have to contact people through LinkedIn who work for the organisation. Possibly you need to reach out through networks and colleagues to find out what companies do wrong. 

But if you find out organisations problems before you approach them, then you can present yourself as someone who can cure the problem. Most organisations know what issues they have, many simply do not know how to solve them. 

Show them you are the one. 

Molly approached us as a very successful marketing executive who had moved roles just as coronavirus struck.

As a result the position she had accepted never materialised, and she had to start applying all over again.

As someone who had been used to almost instant responses from recruitment companies, she was puzzled when after months of applying she had only received two replies. She sent her CV to Workagain for a review.

It quickly became apparent that it had been written in a way that AI systems could not read it. In addition, the story she told was not focused enough on results, but much more a description of the roles she had been carrying out.

After a complete rewrite, passing it through our systems to ensure it could easily be machine read, replies once again landed in her inbox.

After two months she was successfully back in work and thoroughly enjoying her new role.

 

Molly’s testimonial

“After sadly being made redundant from a new role in July 2020, I was really struggling with receiving responses from employers.

In a very competitive job market due to COVID-19, I had applied for upwards of 60 jobs and had only received 2 replies. I knew I needed help as this was very unusual for me.

I had a call with Guy from Workagain, and he immediately pointed out some very simple reasons why my CV wasn’t being noticed and how to change them. He also helped me reformat my entire CV and change the way my key responsibilities and achievements were written down.

He made some very interesting and useful points which made me really think about how I should be advertising myself as a strong candidate for the roles I was applying for.

Once I had reworked my CV with Guys help, I was receiving more responses for roles I applied for and even had recruitment agencies contacting me about new roles. After roughly 2 months, I had accepted a new role which was so exciting and such a relief!

Thanks Guy for all your help, and I would recommend Workagain’s services to anyone struggling to secure a new role.”

If you are unfortunate enough to be made redundant or find yourself without a job, a sense of panic can set in quite quickly.

So many people feel that being out of work marks them down as unemployable. It doesn’t, even at the height of the boom when it is difficult to imagine why people would be out of work, there are plenty of employers needing people and very few around.

In the current situation, however, nobody is going to blame an individual who finds themselves on the wrong side of coronavirus.

Now we know that some employers in more normal times will rather lazily assume anyone out of work as partly to blame, but today unemployment is on the rise and your individual circumstances are simply not unusual.

The only way that it can possibly affect your future employment prospects is if it matters to you. If you feel it is a problem, then that will come across to employers. But if you think that your situation is no different to many others and it is not something to dwell on, then it will not influence your chances.

So rather than concentrate on your present predicament, concentrate instead on a targeted job search, a properly prepared CV and understanding how to interview properly, especially online. Those things will make a big difference.

Or call us.

Good luck!

Here is your problem. In the absence of any other strategy, people approach interviews trying to be likeable, trustworthy and passionate.

Not bad as an aim in itself, except that employers see lots of people who tick those boxes. But when they are recruiting what are they looking for?

Normally a solution to a problem. And in times of stress like this, it is normally a short-term problem.

They may not find somebody with exactly the right experience who has solved this problem before. But they will recognise the person when they see them.

Now nobody is suggesting that if you’ve been working in hotels all your life you have the right experience to suddenly become a brain surgeon. But in many other walks of life, skills are transferable. Salespeople in one industry can generally do well in another, especially if the profile of the customer is similar.

Likewise technical experts may benefit from 20 years with such and such technology, but in reality technology is changing so fast most people have no more than a year’s experience in any of it.

So recruiters are looking for people who solve problems. Whether on the front desk, whether managing a team of people, foreign customer support. But they want to understand that you can recognise problems and how you solve them. If you demonstrate this to people at an interview, they will listen. If you communicate it in the right way they will remember you.

But they see plenty of nice, 120% committed, likeable people. And that is not enough.

Sometimes you have a final interview for the job of your dreams.  You can’t be certain you will get it, how do you give yourself the best chance?

You’ve been out of work for six weeks and this role would just change your life. How do you improve your chances, make yourself more relaxed, come across less desperate for the role?

The quickest way is to line up some other interviews for other roles. I see too many jobseekers who find something they really like the look of, convince themselves they have a strong chance of being selected and then turn off their job search.

It is at precisely the point where you are getting close to something that you should not turn off your job search. The ability to genuinely convince recruiters that you are pursuing a number of different avenues makes you more desirable, it takes the pressure off you and it gives you a Plan B.

I have never gambled, but I understand the analogy. On roulette, only the reckless would put all their chips on red if you wanted to continue playing. But you could confidently put the same number on if you had 10 times that number sitting next to you. 

Spread your bet, increase your chances. And become more confident. 

A much better way to success. 

Finding your next role can be tricky. And you are bound to get rejected a lot of the time. But how much work have you put into it?

We have all seen the headlines – those job seekers who have made 2,000 applications and not had a single reply. Which is fine, but with the click of a mouse I can make multiple applications to an agency for multiple jobs. A simple as that.

But is that really looking for a job? For agencies that are deluged with candidates and under serious pressure. If they see somebody apply for a Managing Director and a Receptionist role, are they going to treat any of those applications seriously?

So how hard do you work at your job search? 

  • Do you draw up a list of roles that you think you would be suited for, and then a list of employers you would ideally like to work for? 
  • Do you approach those employers directly, or even find people who work there, connect with them and ask for their help? 
  • Once you have submitted an application, do you ever follow up?

It is competitive out there. Unless you treat your search for a job as a job, and something that you need to work as hard as you ever worked for your previous employer, then it may be difficult.

It is why some people find it so easy to get into another role, where others struggle for months. Roll up your sleeves, get professional about it and sooner or later the tide will turn.

Or contact us and see if we can put you on the right road. 

We speak to lots of jobseekers who we are supporting through outplacement.

Quite often when we speak to them after an interview, they feel slightly frustrated by their performance. That they have not quite got the message across. Which is why they nearly always benefit from interview coaching.

You see the problem is, many of us are not great storytellers. At interview, many are also really quite nervous. And under pressure, especially if you really want the job because you need it or it is the job of your dreams.

So instead of communicating clearly what you can bring to the organisation, you tend to go on a bit of a ramble, get a bit disconnected and add in a few too many details. And you can sense that the recruiter is getting bored and wished that you would get to the point.

And that is precisely what I recommend to anyone in an interview. Get to the point as quickly as possible and ask the interviewer if they would like further qualification.

Do not be tempted to paint an elaborate picture. Because you’ll probably end up in a Ronnie Corbett style monologue, going down all sorts of blind alleys and leaving your audience unimpressed.

Much better to get the key message across and add more information afterwards, than trying to tell your life story in one go.

I see it many times. 

People have put together their CV quite badly but they have spent ages agonising over their personal profile, before starting on the CV proper. 

The profile is not that important, but the contents of the CV are. So get that part fixed to begin with. The personal profile, on the other hand, is the part of your CV that can be adapted to various different situations. And certainly can be adapted to ensure it matches the needs of any job role you are looking at.

The reason for this is that recruiters and artificial intelligence will often scan through personal profiles to check whether they match job requirements and specifications. 

The personal profile does not need to be fixed, and while we would not recommend producing 26 different CVs for 26 different job applications, this small part of your CV can easily be adapted. 

So do not fret about it to begin with, you’re probably going to change it later in any case. 

Plenty of jobseekers do not show their age on their CV. And there is no reason for them to do so.

So we looked through a CV a few weeks ago that was actually quite well laid out. There was some decent qualifications there, although they gave no hint as to when schools and colleges were attended, so we turned to the job history.

Again this stopped in the year 2000, nothing earlier than that was shown. We have no problem with any of this, as I say any jobseeker is perfectly entitled to take any reference to their age off the CV to prevent age discrimination.

Except, having so carefully covered their tracks I look at their email address: joebloggs1957@gmail.com (apologies to the real Joe Bloggs, I have changed the name). I did not need Hercule Poirot to help me out, but I reckon John was born before 1958.

It is amazing how careful you can be and then miss the blindingly obvious isn’t it?

Look, I know that jobs are not to a penny at the moment. I know that the market is not flooded with opportunity.

But nevertheless, some of you are so keen to get a job that you’re scared of disagreeing with the recruiter, even when what they say is plainly wrong.

Sometimes this can be a test, to throw something controversial into the questioning and see how you react. Whether you stand up for yourself and what you believe or whether you simply roll over.

At other times you may fundamentally disagree with everything that is being said to you. However desperate you are for a job, would you feel comfortable in an organisation like that? Would they respect you more if you stood up to them and said you felt it was wrong.

We don’t suggest you pick an argument in every interview, but if you know something is plainly wrong then tactfully suggest that you don’t quite agree with everything. It might be a test or they might be a nightmare to work for.

Good luck!

Or at least get your lighting right.

Online interviews are becoming more common and more important. First impressions really count. So often I start online coaching with call from a dark murky figure against a brightly lit window. If I’m lucky the camera is pointing at their head if I’m not it misses them altogether.

Online interviews really are important. Practice them carefully beforehand, preferably video calling with a friend and asking them to take a screenshot. That way you can see whether you look like a professional TV presenter or someone stuck in the back of a cupboard in low light.

I know that many complain that their laptop does not have a great camera, or they can only use their phone. But if you are serious about your career, and recognise that this is an important part of the process, then invest £20 in a decent WebCam. Then set yourself up somewhere in the house with decent lighting and a plain background. It will pay real dividends.

Get the lighting right and you can shine.

Alex is a highly successful digital marketing specialist. He understands the environment, is extremely computer literate highly creative and knows how to put effective presentations together.

He had applied all of this knowledge to his CV. And while it looked very attractive it was not doing the right job for him in the recruitment market. There were too many messages going on, it was not focused enough on his undoubted achievements and it was difficult for people to understand exactly what he did.

We completely rewrote his CV, laying it out in a “machine friendly” fashion, that allowed modern recruitment systems to read it logically.

We are pleased to say that he quickly found himself back in the market, but receiving plenty of positive responses.

Alex’s Testimonial

“I was finding it really difficult to identify and properly represent my strengths and most notable achievements on my CV.

I was really struggling to be accepted for interviews and often being approached for far more junior positions as a result of my CV not representing me effectively. Guy was really helpful and gave me tailored advice specific to my industry as well as a completely restructured and segmented CV guidance.

I have since been complimented on by numerous potential employers on the clear and results orientated layout of my CV. I have since accepted a position at a fantastic company as a result of the expert consulting and bespoke experience I received, big thank you to Guy and his team for putting me on the right path”

 

It is quite simple “I’m 99% certain I’ll accept the offer”.

Having recruited for employers all over the world for many years, I can tell you that I know exactly what that phrase means. I have heard it perhaps 300 times, and on the balance of probabilities that would mean that 297 of that 300 have accepted the job.

Except in reality they never do. Because a candidate who is 99% in, is 100% out.

A bit like a football really. A ball that is 99% over the goal line is 100% not a goal. On the flipside a tennis ball that is 99% out is 100% in.

So 99% means to me that they are preparing you for the 1% doubt. That they quite like the idea of the job but they know they won’t accept it. But they don’t have the guts to tell you today, so they’ll leave that lingering doubt in your mind overnight until they call you tomorrow. Or go quiet on you.

If you want to reassure a recruiter that you are going to accept their job (but you possibly have no intention of doing so because you are seeing three other employers in the meantime) then do not use the 99% word. They have heard it all before. 

In fact we are much happier with lower percentages, because they are much more genuine and quite often end in a good outcome. Somebody who is 90% certain may well accept, and someone who is 80/20 will accept most of the time.

So I’ll never believe 99%. But I might give you 110% for effort. 

On your CV? Completely. (Though there are ways of telling the truth that are better than others)

But when you’re dealing with third parties, especially agencies, then you do not need to share everything. Having operated in recruitment ourselves for many years, let me tell you a typical scenario that can really harm your chances of getting your ideal job.

The typical scenario goes something like: you are a very capable candidate who has two or three opportunities on the go. You have been offered a job, or are strongly in the running for one, through an agency who has introduced you.

You mentioned casually that you are also in the running for a job with XYZ Ltd. Perhaps you have been introduced to them by somebody else or even a friend.

Here is the agency’s dilemma. They know you are a strong candidate for one of their clients, but also for someone who they are not dealing with. Agencies range from the very ethical, that is like how we always wanted to behave, to the very “sharp”. 

A sharp operator will not be able to let this go. As soon as they have put down the phone they will make the following judgement, you are 50-50 between their client and XYZ Ltd. If they can get one of their candidates into XYZ Ltd, they have the potential to make two placements. Clearly it will halve your chances of getting your next role, but for the sharp operator that is not their concern.

It happens a lot more than you would believe. And especially in the current climate, where new roles are difficult to come by. If they can get a lead on someone who is definitely recruiting, many will follow it up.

So my advice to you is simple, if you want to be open and upfront with an agency you trust by all means tell them you have a couple of opportunities in the pipeline. But never reveal the identity. 

The harder they push you, the more you know they want to contact the client themselves. You are under no obligation to tell them, and if I were you I would insist that the role is extremely confidential and it would be a breach of trust to reveal the identity. End of conversation.

In the meantime good luck, I’m delighted you have two job opportunities.

The question I’m often asked – ”Why did they get the job when they’re nowhere near as good at it as me?”

Because many people who are brilliant at their jobs are rubbish at communicating it. They don’t understand that what comes to them naturally, is difficult for others to comprehend.

And they don’t understand that if you can learn to communicate your skills, can explain exactly what makes you different and why you have better results, you will get noticed.

It has always been one of our biggest frustrations that the best operators sometimes don’t get the career breaks they deserve. And we have often looked on in amazement at those who cannot perform at that level rise rapidly through the ranks, impressing everybody at each stage of the interview process. They can’t manage but they can interview well.

Learn the secret to this process and your career will take off. Pretend that it makes no difference and it will hold you back.

Talk to us, we can tell you how.