Category Archives: Recruitment

Ten Golden Interview Rules

  1. Turn up. If you can’t go to the interview for any reason, call the interviewer to apologise and explain so that they can give your slot to someone else.
  2. Be on time. Not 30 minutes early, not five minutes late. ON TIME. If you are unsure where you are meant to be going, do a trial run a few days before. If you get there very early on the day, go to a coffee shop and hang around until it is time for the interview. If you turn up early, the interviewer will feel under pressure to interview you then, when they may have other things to do. If you are late, you are wasting their time. Being late says “my time is more important than yours”. Not a great start.
  3. Dress smartly. If you don’t have a suit, buy one or borrow one. Polish your shoes. Have brushed hair and pay attention to your personal hygiene.
  4. Take a copy of your CV, along with anything else you have been asked to take – a portfolio of work for example.
  5. Do your research. Make sure you know what the company does. Find out as much as you can about the person interviewing you too.
  6. Read the job spec (assuming you have one) and the job advert, carefully. These will give you an idea of the questions you will be asked. If the job spec says that one of the requirements of this job is “a good eye for detail” they may ask you to give an example of when you have demonstrated that skill.
  7. Practise your handshake. A wet fish in your hand is not nice. Likewise, don’t try and crush your interviewer’s hand. Firm, but not bone-breaking, is best.
  8. Be interested. Don’t stare out of the window when they are talking to you, or pick your nose, or stare at your shoes.
  9. Be prepared to ask questions. At the end of the interview you will probably be asked if you have any questions. They may have already covered everything you need to know, but it’s best to have something to ask. Good questions include asking about their training opportunities, what the next stage in the interview process is likely to be, or when you are likely to hear from them.
  10. Remember that an interview is a two-way process. It is your opportunity to decide if you want to work for the company, just as much as it is their opportunity to find out if they would like to hire you.

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Ten tips for job hunters

Whether you’re a recent graduate looking for your first break into PR, or a seasoned professional wanting to make your next move, job hunting can be a total drag.  Here’s ten tips for finding your next role.

1)      Set yourself a specific time for job applications.  If you’re out of work, then treat it like a 9 – 5 job.  Get up, make a cup of coffee, turn on your computer and start hunting.  Resist the urge to turn on the telly – Jezza Kyle is far too tempting.  Take a break for lunch and then get back to it until the end of the working day.  If you’re already in a job then set aside an hour every evening.

2)      Do your homework.  Before you apply make sure you understand the role and the company you are applying to.  Reflect your research in your covering letter and make sure each application is specific to that particular company.  Standard covering letters go in the bin.  If you are applying through a recruitment agency this is a little more difficult, but try to make your application as relevant to the role as possible.

3)      Keep a record.  A recent graduate once told me that he’d worked out it was taking him, on average, 33 applications to achieve one interview for a PR role.  That’s a hell of a lot of applications but it is not surprising.  Competition for roles, particularly at entry level, is fierce.  I generally advise graduates to aim for twenty five applications per week, and those people who are already in jobs to aim for one application a day.  With that amount of correspondence you need to keep a record of who you have written to, which position you were applying for, whether you had a response and any other info that might be useful – like a copy of the job advert or role specification so you can refer to it if you’re called for an interview.  Admin is tedious, but it will make your life easier in the long run.

4)      Be persistent. 90% of the companies you apply to won’t even acknowledge receipt of your application let alone give you feedback if you’re rejected.  Don’t take it personally.  Replying to job applicants takes a huge amount of time and administration and for some firms it’s really low on their list of priorities.  As a rule of thumb, if you haven’t heard back from a company in two weeks, you are unlikely to be called to interview.  Don’t give up though.  It may mean you’re not right for that role, but other positions make crop up that are more suitable so keep applying.

5)       Apply speculatively.  If you apply for a specific job you are competing against all the other people applying for that role.  If you write to a company speculatively here is less chance that you will be competing against others and that your letter will stand out.  Make it clear what you are available for – full time, part time, temporary, permanent, contract, internships etc.  Ask them to keep your details on file for any suitable vacancies and if you haven’t heard back from them in three months, write again.

6)      Network endlessly.  Use social network sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ to follow influential PRs and get yourself noticed.  Go along to Tweet Ups, conferences and social events – lots of which are free to attend.   Make a point of collecting business cards and connecting with the people you have met after the event.

7)      Be realistic.  If you’ve got two years of experience and are currently paid £25,000 a year, don’t apply for Director level roles paying £100,000.  You’ll be wasting your time and that of the recruiter.

8)      Dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s.  Attention to detail is incredibly important when applying for jobs.  Make sure you address your application to the right person, and spell their name correctly.  Don’t just rely on spell check to pick up errors.  Proof read your CV and covering letters several times before you press send, and make sure you attach the relevant documents to your email.  Good writing and proof reading skills are required for most PR roles so it’s essential you can prove you have mastered the basics.

9)      Pay it forward.  If you spot a vacancy that would be great for a job hunting friend or acquaintance send them the link to the advert.   Hopefully, they will return the favour.

10)   Say thank you.  If you get a personal response to your application – even if it is a rejection – write and say thank you.  If you get an interview – even if you don’t get the job – write and say thank you.  If someone introduces you to a contact who then offers you an interview, write and thank the referrer.  Such a simple courtesy will make you stick in their minds and will make them more likely to recommend you again in the future.  Thank you letters and emails are rarer than you might imagine and are a really easy way to build your reputation as a thoughtful and friendly person to work with.

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Are your followers for sale?

For_sale_sign

I have an on-off love affair with Twitter.  Sometimes, I use it loads.  Sometimes, I forget it’s there and then there is a delight in re-discovering it.  I use it mostly for business, although I do follow a few friends (and a couple of celebs, but I’m embarrassed about doing that so let’s not dwell on it).  I don’t live in London and am only in the Shoreditch office two days a week so there are few opportunities to network face-to-face.  Twitter is a nice way of finding out what’s going on in the industry, and building relationships with practitioners.  These relationships are useful to me in three ways; firstly, I edit espresso, a weekly e-bulletin which we fill with PR and media news and feature career tips and industry insights.  Quite often I find interviewees or industry spokespeople through Twitter and I also use it for leads on industry stories.   Secondly, I used to be a recruiter.  I no longer recruit directly but I do have connections with Unicorn Jobs and Taylor Bennett and run their diversity internship programme. Relationships with PR practitioners helps me raise awareness of the programme, and have led directly to donations of time, money and training to the interns.  Thirdly, it’s good to just know who is out there, who are the influencers and who is the young blood to watch.  And sometimes, I get to give a little something back – like last week when a student asked me to give some advice on how to get into the PR industry.

Yesterday, I received an email from a Twitter account.  It was anonymous – in that I know which Twitter account it is but there is no way to know who runs it.  I am not going to disclose which account contacted me, as I’m rather interested to see if anyone takes them up on their offer and so will be keeping an eye on them.

Anyway…. this is the email:

Hello,

 I am writing to see if you are interested in taking over the Twitter account ******, including its large follower base of job seekers. The account can be renamed and rebranded, giving your brand and jobs a huge audience, saving time and advertising costs.

 The account can be found at ***** and is followed by a community of PR professionals who are actively searching for their next role through social media. These job seekers have the online skills PR employers are looking for and are engaging with this Twitter account to find their next job. The account is currently tweeting a feed of job postings from various sources, and followers are clicking through to the job postings to find out more. For this demographic, young UK-based PR job seekers, this is the largest Twitter community I am aware of.

 Taking over the account would put your jobs in front of the right people without having to spend money on advertising. It could also significantly help to establish your brand on Twitter. Twitter allows changing the names of accounts, and the followers will be transferred over to the new name.

 Please get in touch if you would be interested in discussing this more.

 

This is my reply:

No thanks.  I run a Facebook group, PR Job Watch, with over 3,000 members.  We don't need to buy Twitter accounts, we can develop our own.  Twitter is all about building relationships.

I'm not sure it's really in the spirit of social media to be "selling" your followers.

Regards
Sarah

 

And their reply:

Very true. Some do a great job, like Unicorn Jobs, but others look for shortcuts.

It is unfortunate, while there are those looking for shortcuts, there will be a market for things like followers. And when there's a market, there are those desperate enough to feed that market. Still, it isn't like it is being sold for spam. I am targeting relevant people who will take care of my followers. Atleast, that's what I keep telling myself.

Thanks for getting back to me and keep up the great work.

ps. I love your esPResso newsletter

 

I mentioned it on Twitter last night and a couple of people expressed outrage at the thought of followers being sold.  I actually *am* a follower of the account in question, and I am not that happy about being sold myself.   But maybe I am behind the times?  Maybe it is acceptable to build up relationships and then sell them on?  Perhaps the likes of The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den are encouraging such entrepreneurial spirit?

It still doesn’t sit quite right with me.  I will be watching with interest to see if a PR recruiter takes them up on it though.

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How not to get a job

Mr_rude_2  I am going to rant.  I rarely rant on here, I silently fume at my desk instead, but this issue deserves a public outing. 

In the past three weeks I’ve had three candidates not show up for interview.  They have all actively applied for a position I have advertised, and been invited to come and meet me and confirmed that they will be turning up at our offices at a specific time and date.  I’ve sat here twiddling my thumbs waiting for them to arrive, unable to book any other meetings into my diary because I have an interview to do, and they’ve failed to show up.  Not only that, but they didn’t bother to call or email me before hand to say they weren’t able to make it.

To add insult to injury, when I’ve dropped them an email and left a polite message on their voicemail to find out if they are on their way or whether they are bothering to come at all they haven’t returned my call.  How RUDE!  All three candidates now have a big black mark against their name on my database saying UNRELIABLE AND RUDE.  I am tempted to name and shame, but figure I behave slightly more professionally than they do.

So here’s a tip, if you want a recruiter to never go out of their way to help you find a job, arrange to meet them and then don’t bother to show up.   

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Bloggers – we need you!

Keyboard
I must apologise.  I have dropped off of the blogosphere for a while as I haven’t even had time to read any, let alone write any.  I have joined a new venture, Unicornjobs.com, and as we head towards our soft launch time seems to be one of those things I just don’t have any more.  However, I feel a virtual slapped wrist coming my way and so as my teacher friends keep telling me – I must try harder.

Anyway, I don’t want to talk about my part in Unicorn Jobs for a while – there will be much to reveal but all in good time. 

In the meantime, we are on the hunt for some bloggers and where better to find bloggers than on the blogsphere?

Here’s the details…. drop me a line if you’re interested.

Unicorn Blogs

unicornjobs.com is a new graduate careers website – the one-stop guide for students and recent graduates looking for advice on how to choose, pursue and succeed in their chosen career.

With a ‘soft launch’ in November 2007, unicornjobs.com will include articles on all key job sectors, with guides on how they function and how you can get into them, plus interviews with people working in those sectors, and those who recruit for them.

In addition to news stories and articles, unicornjobs.com will also include a blogs section where readers will be able to read the opinions and about experiences of various people involved in the website, including our editor, publisher and recruiter.

We will also include blogs from people embarking on their chosen careers – either final year students currently going through the ‘milk round’, or recent graduates starting their first jobs.

We are currently looking to recruit:

•    someone who started work this year on a formal graduate recruitment programme – ie some who has started work as a graduate trainee.

•    someone who has recently started their first job after graduation, but who isn’t on a formal graduate recruitment programme.

If that sounds like you, read on…

What we require

Our bloggers will:

•    write honestly and entertainingly about their experiences of their first job after graduation.
•    identify interesting topics to write about.
•    blog at least twice a week on relevant topics, writing between 100 and 300 words each time.
•    submit coherent spell-checked copy.
•    write within unicornjobs.com style guidelines (these will be very flexible for bloggers).

You will email your blog entries to our operations manager, who will arrange for them to be uploaded to our site.

What we offer

Blogging on unicornjobs.com is a great opportunity for anyone looking to develop their journalistic skills. You will have your work published on a high profile new careers website, plus receive ongoing feedback from our experienced editorial team, and direct access to our career advisers. We pay each blogger a fee of £25 a month. Our bloggers write under a pseudonym allowing them to be honest about their experiences in working life.

How to apply

If you are interested in becoming a blogger for unicornjobs.com email your name and CV plus a first blog entry to info@unicornjobs.com, telling us which blogging spot you are applying for.

From time to time we will recruit other bloggers. If you have an idea for a blog which thing will interest our audience of graduate jobs seekers, please get in touch, ideally with a sample blog.

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All Change!

I’ve been a little quiet of late and now is the time to share the reason why.   Firstly, Indigo Red moved offices.  After a few teething problems with IT and phones we’re now up and running and are in swanky new offices in the heart of Watford town centre. 

Secondly, I have a new job.  Tomorrow is my last day at Indigo Red and I will be joining my new company at the end of the month – after a week of R&R and visiting parents, taking the cats to the vets and having my eyes tested!  I am going back to my recruitment beginnings and am re-joining the Taylor Bennett family to work on a new venture recruiting graduates.  Although I will be working across all industries recruiting fresh faced grads, I will still keep a hand in the PR industry so if you need AEs, give me a call.

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The Good, the not so bad and the ugly

With the launch of VlogYourJob just around the corner, I’ve been scouring the net for recruitment videos already online, and these are the ones I had to share!

The Good:
Connected Ventures put this online and had over 4 millions views, which resulted in countless CVs

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=173714&server=vimeo.com&fullscreen=1&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=00ADEF

Lip Dub – Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger from amandalynferri and Vimeo.

The Not So Bad:
Google.  A little long and very American, but not bad!

The Ugly:
Ernst & Young (in 2001 admittadly)…. I cringed and cringed and cringed….

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Training Course Review – Don’t Become a Frog

A couple of weeks ago, Louise Triance of UK Recruiter asked me if I’d like a free place on Warren Kemp’s training course "Don’t become a frog, 250 tips for busy recruiters", in exchange she asked me to write a piece for the UK Recruiter Newsletter.  So I jumped at the chance.  And here’s the review:

The launch of the latest Harry Potter best seller wasn’t the only interesting thing going on at Waterstones in Piccadilly last recently.   Thursday afternoon saw me and a colleague fighting our way through west-end shoppers to the top floor of the book store to join 35 other delegates at Warren Kemp’s session on tips for top recruiters. 

My colleague had previously been to other training sessions with Warren, and rated him highly, so it was with enthusiastic anticipation that we stumbled into the room for a glass of champagne and a chat with some other attendees before the main event.  It seemed a good mix of experienced recruiters and new comers to the industry with plenty of chat about how competitive the recruitment industry is and how finding new and innovative ways of attracting talent are become more and more crucial.

Cue the start of the session. Warren is a charismatic and personable presenter who engaged the audience early on and kept our attention throughout, although there was a bit of random jumping about from subject to subject but that’s quite a good reflection of the book on which the course is based.  Promising to cover tips on clients, candidates, relationships and “being a better human being” he launched into tips on marketing your services, followed by how to build relationships with both clients and candidates and some handy tips on managing your work load (do the jobs you don’t want to do first, don’t put them off – it’s my new work ethic).  There was a fair amount of audience participation in the day asking for our ideas on what makes a good candidate, job or client and a bit of a “raise your hand if”… type approach (we discovered in one straw poll that 50% of recruiters were on Facebook, 43% on LinkedIn, 10% on ecademy and 0% on Xing, which is a good a representation as any!).

There was an opportunity for a cup of coffee and networking half way through the session (although plenty of us were on the phone or busily tapping away at emails on our Blackberries), and the chance to stretch our legs before finishing the session with some useful handouts on working out client and candidate audits and a quick sell from Warren on a training course in Barcelona (we are tempted!)

We were all given a copy of Warren’s book, “Don’t Become a Frog (250 tips for busy recruiters)” at the end of the day and I found myself reading it on the train home so the subject had gripped me enough to want to find out more.  The tip on how not to be a frog is number 164 for those of you that are interested!  I left the session feeling that there are definitely some tips I can implement at work and I’d recommend both the course and the book to other recruiters who are striving to make the best of their desk.

You can find out more about Warren’s training at http://www.recruitmentmatters.com/

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The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies

Indigo Red will be moving offices in the next couple of months.  My husband, who works for a removal firm, came with me to the office on Saturday to work out how much the move is going to cost us (his labour is free, but I’m not sure I could pay his work mates in kind). In a minor panic that he will realise my work life is not quite as organised as my home one, I had a bit of a tidy up of my desk on Friday.  Among the old interview notes and endless business cards I found a copy of The Sunday Times 100 best companies to work for, 2007.  It’s been lurking there since March as I had intended to blog about it, and somehow had slipped between an old pile of payslips and some HR trade mags.

So anyway, only a mere 5 months late and here I am ready to write about it.

I thumbed through it once more and scanned the list for PR companies.  Only 1 PR agency made the top 100, Hill and Knowlton, who scraped in at number 91.  Scanning through the piece on them there are some things which are unsurprising; the male/female ratio is 36:64 – still a considerably better distribution of the sexes than some agencies, and the average age of an H&Ker is 32.  There is considerable attention given to the free scoff and booze you can get there – free breakfast and free food after quarterly meetings, plus an onsite bar.  However, they score some of the lowest scores in the 100 in terms of work life balance, as nearly half the staff said they felt they spent too much time working.

Still, I wonder what the 88% that said they have fun with their colleagues are up to?

On a slightly different tangent, I also looked for recruitment consultancies.  There are a whopping 14 recruitment companies in the top 100, with Hill McGlynn & Associates topping the list at number 12.  Impressive numbers from the recruitment industry.

As these Best Company rankings are voted for by the employees, it begs the question are recruitment companies better at their own employment PR than the PR experts?

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If you snooze, do you lose?

Sleeping_on_job_5

Louise Triance’s post about UK workers wanting a siesta coincided with a report from Reuters yesterday, that Hungary may be undergoing a referendum on whether or not an afternoon nap becomes a legal requirement for the workplace.  I’m not sure that Hungary’s employers should be too worried yet though, since the fall of communism in 1989 there have been plenty of referendums and only two have passed – joining NATO and the European Union.

Still, it highlighted the work/life balance issue once more.  Back in January, This is Money reported that Britons work the longest hours in Europe.  Our continental cousins work far less hours, in France the average is 38.2 per week, in Germany it’s 39.9 and yet in the UK it’s 43.5.  As a nation, we have a culture of unpaid overtime, and being the last to leave the office can be seen as a badge of status – I’m the busiest person here, I can’t possibly leave on time (although you could argue if you worked smarter, and got your job done during the core work hours you wouldn’t need to stay behind).

Some of the more enlightened employers are now actively encouraging their employees to go home on time instead of burning the midnight oil in the office. 

As a recruiter, when I interview candidates and ask what they would like from their next job, work/life balance comes at the top of a lot of lists.  Flexible working, working from home, 3 and 4 day weeks are all regular requests.  Those employers who are keen to get the best talent, and retain the best people, are aware that offering these benefits can be a huge draw and are often more highly valued than a pay rise.

Still, an afternoon kip would be nice.  Wonder if I could nip off to the boardroom and have a cat nap?

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