The 25 most difficult questions you’ll be asked on a job interview

I am sent a lot of tips and the following has been adapted from an article received via “recruiting blogs”

I may choose to ask you any of the following questions and they are classics. In addition I fully intend to get you an interview and you should not be surprise if my client also asks at least some of the same questions!

Being prepared is half the battle…

  1. Tell me about yourself.

Since this is often the opening question in an interview, be extra careful that you don’t go on forever. Keep your answer to a minute or two at most. Cover four topics: early years, education, work history and recent career experience. Emphasise this last subject. Remember that this is likely normally a warm-up question. Don’t waste your best points on it!

  1. What do you know about our organisation?

Your preparation should enable you to discuss products or services, revenues, reputation, image, goals, problems, management style, people, history and philosophy. But don’t act as if you know everything about the place. Let your answer show that you have taken the time to do some research, but don’t overwhelm the interviewer, and make it clear that you wish to learn more.

You might start your answer in this manner: “In my job search, I’ve investigated a number of companies and yours is one of the few that interests me, for these reasons…”

Give your answer a positive tone. Don’t say, “Well, everyone tells me that you’re in all sorts of trouble, and that’s why I’m here”, even if that is why you’re there.

  1. Why do you want to work for us?

Here, and throughout the interview, a good answer comes from having done your homework so that you can speak in terms of the company’s needs. You might say that your research has shown that the company is doing things you would like to be involved with, and that it’s doing them in ways that greatly interest you. For example, if the organisation is known for strong management, your answer should mention that fact and show that you would like to be a part of that team. If the company places a great deal of emphasis on research and development  then emphasise the fact that you want to create new things and that you know this is a place where such activity is encouraged. If the organisation stresses financial controls, your answer should mention a reverence for numbers.

If you feel that you have to concoct an answer to this question – if, for example, the company stresses research, and you feel that you should mention it even though it really doesn’t interest you- then you probably should not be attending that interview, because you probably shouldn’t be considering a job with that organisation.

Your homework should include learning enough about the company to avoid approaching places where you wouldn’t be able -or wouldn’t want- to function. Since most of us are poor liars, it’s difficult to con anyone in an interview. But even if you should succeed at it, your prize is a job you don’t really want.

  1. What can you do for us that someone else can’t?

Here you have every right, and perhaps an obligation to “blow your own trumpet” and be slightly egotistical. Talk about your record of getting things done and mention specifics from your CV or list of career accomplishments. Say that your skills and interests, combined with this history of getting results, make you valuable. Mention your ability to set priorities, identify problems, and use your experience and energy to solve them.

  1. What do you find most attractive about this position? What seems least attractive about it?

List three or four attractive factors of the job, and mention a single, minor, unattractive item.

  1. Why should we hire you?

Create your answer by thinking in terms of your ability, your experience, and your energy.

  1. What do you look for in a job?

Keep your answer oriented to opportunities at this organisation. Talk about your desire to perform and be recognised for your contributions. Make your answer oriented toward opportunity rather than personal security.

  1. Please give me your definition of [the position for which you are being interviewed].

Keep your answer brief and task oriented. Think in terms of responsibilities and accountability. Make sure that you really do understand what the position involves before you attempt an answer. If you are not certain then ask.  The interviewer may answer the question for you.

  1. How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our firm?

Be realistic. Say that, while you would expect to meet pressing demands and pull your own weight from the first day, it might take six months to a year before you could expect to know the organisation and its needs well enough to make a major contribution.

  1. How long would you stay with us?

Say that you are interested in a career with the organisation, but admit that you would have to continue to feel challenged to remain with any organisation. Think in terms of, “As long as we both feel achievement-oriented.”

  1. Your resume suggests that you may be over-qualified or too experienced for this position. What’s your opinion?

Emphasise your interest in establishing a long-term association with the organisation, and say that you assume that if you perform well in this job, new opportunities will open up for you. Mention that a strong company needs a strong staff. Observe that experienced executives are always at a premium. Suggest that since you are so well-qualified, the employer will get a fast return on his investment. Say that a growing, energetic company can never have too much talent.

  1. What is your management style?

You should know enough about the company’s style to know that your management style will complement it. Possible styles include: task oriented (I’ll enjoy problem-solving identifying what’s wrong, choosing a solution and implementing it”), results-oriented (“Every management decision I make is determined by how it will affect the bottom line”), or even paternalistic (“I’m committed to taking care of my subordinates and pointing them in the right direction”).

A participative style is currently quite popular: an open-door method of managing in which you get things done by motivating people and delegating responsibility.

As you consider this question, think about whether your style will let you work happily and effectively within the organisation.

  1. Are you a good manager? Can you give me some examples? Do you feel that you have top managerial potential?

Keep your answer achievement and ask-oriented. Rely on examples from your career to support your argument. Stress your experience and your energy.

  1. What do you look for when you hire people?

Think in terms of skills initiative and the adaptability to be able to work comfortably and effectively with others. Mention that you like to hire people who appear capable of moving up in the organisation.

  1. Have you ever had to fire people? What were the reasons, and how did you handle the situation?

Admit that the situation was not easy, but say that it worked out well, both for the company and, you think, for the individual. Show that, like anyone else, you don’t enjoy unpleasant tasks but that you can resolve them efficiently and -in the case of firing someone- humanely.

  1. What do you think is the most difficult thing about being a manager or executive?

Mention planning, execution, and cost-control. The most difficult task is to motivate and manage employees to get something planned and completed on time and within the budget.

  1. What important trends do you see in our industry?

Be prepared with two or three trends that illustrate how well you understand your industry. You might consider technological challenges or opportunities, economic conditions, or even regulatory demands as you collect your thoughts about the direction in which your business is heading.

  1. Why are you leaving (did you leave) your present (last) job?

Be brief, to the point, and as honest as you can without hurting yourself. Refer back to the planning phase of your job search where you considered this topic as you set your reference statements. If you were laid off in an across-the-board layoff of personnel then say so; otherwise, indicate that the move was your decision, the result of your action. Do not mention personality conflicts.

The interviewer may spend some time probing you on this issue, particularly if it is clear that you were terminated. The “We agreed to disagree” approach may be useful. Remember that your references are likely to be checked, so don’t concoct a story for an interview.

  1. How do you feel about leaving all your benefits to find a new job?

Mention that you are concerned, naturally, but not panicked. You are willing to accept some risk to find the right job for yourself. Don’t suggest that security might interest you more than getting the job done successfully.

  1. In your current or last position, what features do you or did you like the most and the least?

Be careful and be positive. Describe more features that you liked than disliked. Don’t cite personality problems. If you make your last job sound terrible, an interviewer may wonder why you remained there until now.

  1. What do you think of your boss?

Be as positive as you can. A potential boss is likely to wonder if you might talk about him in similar terms at some point in the future. Don’t “vent your spleen” because you were wronged by your former boss.

  1. Why aren’t you earning more at your age?

Say that this is one reason that you are conducting this job search. Don’t be defensive. If interviewing for a sales position then state your confidence in selling and ask for a high commission payment to offset the basic, if you think it is a little low.

  1. What do you feel this position should pay?

Salary is a delicate topic. I suggest that you defer tying yourself to a precise figure for as long as you can do so politely. You might say, “I understand that the range for this job is between £______ and £______. That seems appropriate for the job as I understand it.” You might answer the question with a question: “Perhaps you can help me on this one. Can you tell me if there is a range for similar jobs in the organisation?” Ask about the whole package, they may offer bonuses, accommodation allowance, travelling expenses etc.

If you are asked the question during an initial screening interview, you might say that you feel you need to know more about the position’s responsibilities before you could give a meaningful answer to that question. Here, too, either by asking the interviewer or recruiter, or in research done as part of your homework, you can try to find out whether there is a salary grade attached to the job. If there is, and if you can live with it, say that the range seems right to you.

If the interviewer continues to probe, you might say, “You know that I’m making £______ now and like most people, I’d wish to improve on that figure, but my major interest is with the job itself.” Remember that the act of taking a new job does not, in and of itself, make you worth more money.

If I am acting on your behalf then I will be able to help with the salary question. I will have a very good idea about the salary my client will be willing to pay and what other benefits will be on offer. I might suggest to you that working for a top ten listed Fortune 500 company may offer far better long term prospects and accepting a slightly lower salary than your were hoping for may be a good choice. Please consider all your options and do not turn down a job on salary alone.

If no price range is attached to the job, and the interviewer continues to press the subject, then you will have to respond with a number. I would always ask what you were earning with your last employer and please remember it is not too difficult for me to check! You cannot leave the impression that it does not really matter, that you’ll accept whatever is offered. If you’ve been making £80,000 a year, you can’t say that a £35,000 figure would be fine without sounding as if you’ve given up on yourself. (If you are making a radical career change, however, this kind of disparity may be more reasonable and understandable but it still sounds a little odd.)

Don’t sell yourself short, but continue to stress the fact that the job itself is the most important thing in your mind. The interviewer may be trying to determine just how much you want the job. Don’t leave the impression that money is the only thing that is important to you. Link questions of salary to the work itself and what you can offer.

  1. What are your long term goals?

Refer back to the planning phase of your job search. Don’t answer, “I want the job you’ve advertised.” Relate your goals to the company you are interviewing: ‘in a firm like yours, I would like to…”

  1. How successful have you been so far?

Say that, all-in-all; you’re happy with the way your career has progressed so far. Given the normal ups and downs of life, you feel that you’ve done quite well and have no complaints. Add that you have a lot to offer and reiterate past successes and how your innovative ideas and ways of doing things have and will make a difference.

Present a positive and confident picture of yourself, but don’t overstate your case. An answer like, “Everything’s wonderful! I can’t think of a time when things were going better! I’m overjoyed!” is likely to make an interviewer wonder whether you’re trying to fool him . . . or yourself. The most convincing confidence is usually quiet confidence.

Good luck with your job hunt and remember- the client pays me to help you.

 

How should I layout my CV to get that interview?

You may never know why you didn’t get chosen for a job interview but a recent study is shedding some light on recruiters’ decision-making behaviour.

According to recent research, recruiters spend an average of “six seconds before they make the initial ‘fit or no fit’ decision” on candidates and I am sorry to say, in my case, it is occasionally much quicker than that.

The study used a scientific technique called “eye tracking” on 30 professional recruiters and examined their eye movements during a 10-week period to “record and analyze where and how long someone focuses when digesting a piece of information or completing a task.”

So what gets looked at first…?

In the short time that they spend with your resume, the study showed recruiters will look at your name, current title and company, current position start and end dates, previous title and company, previous position start and end dates, and education. Personally, if I was reading your CV I would like to see a summary of your skills right at the top and my method of reading a CV matches the results of the study.

With such critical time constraints, please make it easier for me to find pertinent information. Create a resume with a clear visual hierarchy and don’t include distracting visuals since “such visual elements reduced recruiters’ analytical capability and hampered decision-making” and kept them from “locating the most relevant information, like skills and experience.”  As I have mentioned before, don’t use any fancy formatting such as borders, bullet points or shading, it really does not help!

Please also bear in mind I use Boolean search strings to find you so it is important to ensure your key skills are listed on your CV. It really is quite easy to make your CV more likely to be selected and that is what we both want!

Top tips for candidates who want to get the best out of their recruiters… (Me!)

It is not a secret, I get paid for finding you a job and sometimes I get paid a lot. Is that really a bad thing? I place candidates sometimes earning six figure salaries, they are happy and my service is free. Now that is out of the way let’s have a look at a few points I think will help us work together to the best advantage for both of us:

 

Are you a good candidate? Do you regularly check your email and respond to voicemail left for you? If the answer is no then please forgive me for thinking you are not interested in talking to me. If you don’t want to talk to me then just say, that is fine. If you would prefer I don’t keep your CV for future opportunities then say so and I will even delete the record. May I suggest if you would like to keep your options open but do not want to talk to me just yet then tell me so I can contact you when you do want to hear from me.  My rule is as follows: failure to reply to 3 calls or emails means you are removed from my shortlist but you will remain on my database unless you request removal. I keep records of all conversations, emails etc so why be the candidate that is difficult to get hold of?

 

Once you are shortlisted I will email you at least weekly to update you on progress, even if it is to say “I have not heard from my client yet”.  Equally I think it is fine for you to follow up once a week, preferably via email but please do not repeatedly call or Skype. If I have information about an interview for you or the next steps I will contact you!

 

I often keep certain information to myself at the start of the process but almost all I know will be in my job description.  I will rarely tell you who my client is until he or she acknowledges receipt of your CV. I do this to ensure I receive my fee for introducing you.

 

Please answer the questions I ask honestly. I am trying to confirm you are the right candidate for the job. I have read through your CV and often dug a little deeper before calling but I need to know specifics and will often ask hard questions. Please just be truthful, if this opportunity is not the right one at least I know you better and will be looking for jobs I can match you to. Bear in mind I contact on average 20 new clients per week.

 

Be polite and be professional. I know transitioning to a new job or career can be stressful, I have been there and I promise to be respectful to you.

 

For me recruitment is all about relationships and networks so why not introduce me to a friend or colleague? I will be asking how you want to be paid if I place anyone you refer to me!!

 

Before I forget…send me your CV as a word document (not pdf) without fancy formatting such as borders, shading and bullet points etc. Truth is my recruitment software has problems with anything more than a standard word doc and most recruiters will say the same.

 

Good luck with your job search and I hope I can help.

How to get hired

Interviews-here are my 10 best recommendations: 

  1. Show confidence. The single most critical state of mind in any job interview is self-assuredness, so confirm that your personal pitch is based 100% on your innate talents and strengths. Write down your top five strengths and keep them in the forefront of your mind during the interview. If you lead with your strengths, you’ll exude self-efficacy and genuine, unstoppable confidence.  

 

  1. Detail how your strengths will help the company grow. Businesses have exhausted all cost-cutting measures. They’ve applied Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, and lean thinking to make their companies more efficient and muscular. Now they want to play offensive and grow their businesses, so position yourself as having growth-oriented skills. Show how you can help them grow teams, sales, and customers.  

 

  1. Emphasize how you can help companies achieve big profits. A company will hire you if you can show that you’ll make it more profitable, so specify how you’ll do that. Maybe your strengths lie in sales, efficient work, or effective management. Whatever – you’re there to boost the bottom line. If you’re just not comfortable with profits, you can pursue honourable work in government or the non-profit world. 

 

  1. Give extremely specific evidence that you understand customers. The biggest problem most companies have right now is getting more business from existing customers. If you can offer compelling evidence that you’ve turned a customer around – or deepened a customer relationship – you will score highly. 

 

  1. Know more about the organization where you’re applying than the interviewer does. This makes you look exceptionally well-informed. 

 

 

  1. Get as physically fit as you possibly can. There’s no easy way to say this, but obesity and smoking can be barriers to getting hired. They instil a fear of higher healthcare costs, while also unfairly projecting an image of less discipline and drive. I don’t endorse this prejudice – I’m just being frank that it exists. 

 

  1. First impressions matter. Look your best. Walk with confidence, give a firm handshake, look interviewers in the eye, smile a lot (but sincerely), and take an interest in the interviewer. 

 

 

  1. If you’re asked to give a presentation, make it a 10. An 8 or 9 won’t cut it – you have to produce your best. Don’t get talked into trying out new material. Do what good politicians do: No matter what the question, bring it around to your areas of strength. And stress customers and profits. 

 

  1. Casually let the interviewer know you’re exploring other opportunities – only if it’s true. This always works, but it must be genuine. 

 

  1. Never talk about pay until after you’ve been offered the job. Going right to compensation and benefits is a real turnoff. Emphasize your deep interest in the mission and purpose of the company, especially when talking to the top people.

Let’s do it better

What’s wrong with recruitment…and how to fix it!

 

This could potentially be a VERY long post because I’m talking about an industry that has many inherent flaws. In my opinion, many of the problems we see stem from some fundamental issues that recruiters have brought upon themselves and customers unwittingly propagate.

 

The paying customers’ perspective

Having been a customer myself and in speaking with countless other recruitment customers, I can tell you that their complaints are very consistent.

There’re a lot of them so I’ll list out the top 10:

  1. They waste my time
  2. They lie to me
  3. They keep hassling me every 5 minutes or too many emails
  4. Fees are too high, even ridiculous!!
  5. Recruiters don’t understand my business or the role
  6. Candidates aren’t even being interviewed before they’re sent to me
  7. They’ve been looking for months and can’t find anyone
  8. They send mis-matched CV’s
  9. Too many cold calls
  10. I’m sick of junior recruiters who have no idea

 

The recruiters’ perspective

There’s a pretty similar list of gripes here too:

  1. They waste my time
  2. They lie to me
  3. I have to chase them for everything and they never call me back
  4. They cancel roles and they’ve always got 5 other recruiters working the same role
  5. This role is a £100K investment and they won’t even meet with me to talk about their business or the role in detail
  6. Every time I send a candidate they say “we already known him/her” or another agency has just sent the same CV
  7. They’ve been looking for months even years but won’t budge on the spec or increase their budget
  8. They don’t give me any feedback on candidates I send them
  9. There’s no customer loyalty and they always step outside our agreement
  10. I’m sick of hearing we only pay 12.5%. (I have been in recruitment for over decade and did not start that low-HINT)

And the sad thing here is the true victim of this lack of accountability and partnership – the rather important people – the TALENT we want to attract!

 

What can be done?

 

It’s tempting to work through each of these issues one by one and talk about solutions but we’d be treating the symptoms, not the core problems.

It seems to me that most problems stem from the bounty hunter style pricing model prevalent in the market where the fee is contingent upon success. With this model the customer has nothing to lose by being non-committal and farming the role out to multiple recruiters.

To draw an analogy, this model is like giving your tax return to 5 accountants and telling them that you’ll only pay whoever gets you the quickest result. If you did that, what kind of result would you get? I bet any accountant (or lawyer) worth their salt would turn it down instantly and if you were lucky enough to get a few to agree how would they approach the assignment? They’d rush it, they’d probably cut corners so they don’t invest too much time in case they don’t get paid. Just like you, they’d be hedging their bets.

So when we do the same thing in recruitment a few important things happen. Because we’re dealing with a number of recruiters this soaks up so much time that it’s too much effort to do a proper job brief. In fact it’s too much effort to call everyone back or respond to the CVs they’ve sent. We haven’t spent any money so it’s no skin off our nose, right? Then the follow-up calls start and we get fed up pretty quickly.

The recruiters know how the game works so they’ll make a call on where your role should sit in their priority list. Most good recruiters will successfully place between 25% to 50% of the roles they work. That means they spend their own time and money on 10 jobs but only get paid for 2.5 to 5 of them (sometimes none). UNLESS they are search consultants working on a shared risk basis.

So, recruiters usually look at their jobs and think “what can I definitely place?”. This is where the bulk of their time will (should!) be spent. If you’re not a top priority because you don’t return calls, or you have too many recruiters working your role, or your fee is too low, or you’ve been looking for ages and you’re not paying enough money… then guess what, you get a half-hearted effort or NONE.

More importantly we’re motivating recruiters based on speed, so it’s in their best interests to try to get the best return from the least amount of effort. This encourages what we call a flick and stick, or spray and pray approach. Basically, this means playing the numbers and throwing as many CVs out to as many customers as possible knowing that the law of averages means that something will stick. The scary thing is, this is so entrenched that Recruiter’s KPIs are actually measured and rewarded based on these numbers! I hasten to add not at Focus Point for this very reason. We are much keener on keeping an eye on our interview to placement ratio-I would be shocked if you did hire one of two candidates who we uncovered, and you interviewed…

 

The better way!

I think the solution is to throw out the contingent fee model completely or strike an exclusive deal with a recruiter who will fill the opening. Ideally, get to know a niched headhunter and pay them a portion of their fee upfront (Tip; this is normally about a third of the planned placement fee). This commits both parties to getting a quality result and puts your job firmly at the top of the priority list. It means that the recruiter doesn’t have to cut corners to get you a CV before someone else. It means recruiters can afford to take on half the number of jobs because they know they’ll get paid for all of them. It means candidates aren’t getting calls from 5 different recruiters and don’t start thinking “wow this (Client X) must be desperate!”. It also usually means you’ll be able to negotiate a discount because you’ve removed some of the recruiter’s risk. AND, the normal model is that your deposit is credited on the invoice for the placement.

Is this risky for you? Yes it probably is, but in the context of all your recruiting over a number of years, doesn’t it make good business sense to spend time up front picking a good recruiter with good references and a strong track record? Then build a strong, exclusive relationship with them until you get to the point that they know your business better than most of your staff and almost as well as you know it. If they let you down, find another agency. You might have the odd false start but over time you will get much better results and you will absolutely save money. My clients expect their new starts to bring in 1.5-2X their salary in the first year so please bear that in mind before gasping at my fee!!

 

A common misconception

 

I once had a customer say “But I’m buying a product, if I like what’s on your shelf then I’ll pay, if I don’t then I won’t”. Sorry, but candidates are most definitely not sitting on a shelf waiting for your call! You’re not buying a product, you’re buying a service. You’re paying for someone to go out to market and represent your business. You’re paying for someone to search high and low, ask for referrals, network extensively, leverage an existing group of contacts and generally do whatever it takes to find you the perfect person.

Having said that, the best recruiters invest heavily in their network, so they will often be able to recommend someone they’ve already met. But it’s important to recognise, you’re still paying for a service. You’re paying for someone to successfully broker and secure a long term relationship on your behalf that you can then benefit from quickly. Just because they are in the recruiter’s network when you ask doesn’t mean a huge amount of time (usually years) of effort hasn’t gone into making that the case. Consider this when briefing your headhunter…why should someone who is happily employed wish to resign and join you? The good people do not put their CV’s on to job boards.

 

Final thoughts

If you spent £150K (on say a piece of Software) in your business, would you spend a lot of time with a vendor to make sure they really understood what you wanted? Of course! Why is a £150K candidate any different? It’s a big investment and very expensive if you get it wrong so it pays to invest the time with quality partners to make sure you get it right.

At Focus Point we have built a variety of fee structures and replacement programmes for procuring in demand talent. And, we added the buy or sell business idea to enable expanding companies to hire whole teams-consider how that would change the landscape for you….

 

Why am I not getting an interview?

Are you sending your CV to ads on Job Boards like Indeed or others but not getting a favourable response? Here are some reasons that might be happening:

 

Recruiters or headhunters in recruitment agencies or search firms receive a large number of resumes and calls every, they have to decide within 5-10 seconds if the candidate matches their brief or not. The job of a professional recruiter is to find matches between the job and the applicant, the skills of the person and the job responsibilities. This is not as easy as it may read, take the civil engineer that has worked for years on nuclear, so it seems he could be a specialist only doing that, dig deeper and discover he also won an award for a motorway intersection and he lectures students at a well-respected University. This candidate is now a possibility for more than one opening…

 

Here are 5 tips for targeted applications that are more likely to get you to the interview:

 

  1. Only apply if you match 80% of the job ad: this ratio will give you a) confidence to succeed in the job and b) enough room to grow, learn and stay motivated for the next years. 80% is not only a good indicator for the recruiter – who will weed out those candidates who fall short – but it is also important for your personal risk management: you want to be sure the next step will be the right one and you will stay and evolve within the new organization

 

  1. Only apply if you cover 99% of the essential criteria: When it says “fluent Japanese is a must, this means that you cannot do the job unless you are fluent in that language. Be prepared and realise that everything you put on your resume will be double-checked – and in 80% of the cases I correct the language level stated. I had candidates that put “fluent” on their resume yet were not able to communicate at all in the stated language. If the specification asks or CEng or MRICS and so on then only apply if you are a certified professional.

 

  1. Do not apply when you are clearly over or under qualified:If you read “7 years relevant experience”, you can be sure to get a suspicious response if you have 2 or 20 years of experience as we consider that the job is either under or over your competencies or not in line with the salary range for this level. Though we understand that you might be willing to go down on salary and responsibilities if you are highly qualified, you might create an internal disequilibrium. We might furthermore assume that stepping down in terms of responsibilities, title and salary as well as reporting to someone potentially less qualified than you is neither good for your morale nor for your career management and we would fear that you will not stay but continue looking for a “better” job. If you do not have the experience required and do not meet the 80% above, we might assume that you won’t make it…A square pin in a round hole perhaps?

 

  1. Only apply when you are local or really able to move easily: You should live in the area where the job is located or have a very good reason to apply: I get resumes from Cornwall for jobs in Birmingham! Though the candidate credentials may be flawless, these candidates can unfortunately not be the priority. Furthermore, moving to another town and leaving family and friends behind may be much tougher than you expected.

 

  1. Only apply if your gut feeling is right: Choosing a new job is about the question where you want to spend 40-50 hours per week – ideally for the next 3-5 years, at least. Be clear in your own mind.

 

Conclusion:

I would rather be direct and honest, if the job you applied for is really not right for you then I will tell you. If you have done similar things, then let’s talk and see if we can present a case to my client-I know all of them very well and can really help you! If you have the skills I know other clients I scout for need then I will represent you and mount a campaign on your behalf. The beauty of all of this is that it is free, and no one will ever know about our conversation unless you allow it. Get a headhunter working for you, how can you lose?

Why not do it like we always have?

Why retaining a recruiter is advantageous:

This method will produce results-a deep search that will uncover the “A players”. These candidates are employed in secure positions and do not publicize the fact they could be tempted. To start I would take a very detailed brief from you then, produce what I call a “white paper”. This document is then emailed for you to verify and make any comments. Once done I instruct my research team and they get to work. Typically 1000 calls are made per vacancy eventually shortlisting the best 2-3 candidates who I personally interview. No CV’s are submitted without my approval.

For this level of service, I ask for a % of my fee upfront and for you that means;

You get my commitment. I go home at night thinking about your vacancy, wake up thinking about it and ensure my team and I leave no stone unturned getting you the person you need to progress. I know you are serious, that is how the vacancy is regarded and it will be filled with a high-performer.

Your vacancies treated as a top priority. When I work my engaged clients are my top priority. The candidate alerts you may have seen from me are the by-products of searches run for clients who have agreed to a shared risk deal.

Expert filtering. All CV’s are expertly filtered and only the best submitted. For me it is not send, send, and send.

Reduced time spent on recruiting. Contingency search agents will send high numbers of CV’s hoping one will lead to a placement and you have to sift through them! This is very hit and miss often leading to a bad hire that can cost you dearly.

Your brand is not diluted. To explain; if I talk to a great candidate about your company and the role and the same day another recruiter calls and says the same thing then that candidate’s opinion of your company can be damaged, it appears you are desperate. One recruiter selling the job to them is much, much stronger.

Your upfront fee is deducted when I issue my invoice so this enhanced service has not cost you more!

 

PS After completing your search I will never forget you trusted me and will always tip you the wink first when a candidate is uncovered who fits your company. You get first refusal.

 

Something has to change

What’s wrong with recruitment…and how to fix it!

 

This could potentially be a VERY long post because I’m talking about an industry that has many inherent flaws. In my opinion, many of the problems we see stem from some fundamental issues that recruiters have brought upon themselves and customers unwittingly propagate.

 

The paying customers’ perspective

Having been a customer myself and in speaking with countless other recruitment customers, I can tell you that their complaints are very consistent.

There’s a lot of them so I’ll list out the top 10:

  1. They waste my time
  2. They lie to me
  3. They keep hassling me every 5 minutes or too many emails
  4. Fees are too high, even ridiculous!!
  5. Recruiters don’t understand my business or the role
  6. Candidates aren’t even being interviewed before they’re sent to me
  7. They’ve been looking for months and can’t find anyone
  8. They send irrelevant CV’s
  9. Too many cold calls
  10. I’m sick of junior recruiters who have no idea

 

The recruiters’ perspective

There’s a pretty similar list of gripes here too:

  1. They waste my time
  2. They lie to me
  3. I have to chase them for everything and they never call me back
  4. They cancel roles and they’ve always got 5 other recruiters working the same role
  5. This role is a £100K investment and they won’t even meet with me to talk about their business or the role in detail
  6. Every time I send a candidate they say “we already known him/her” or another agency has just sent the same CV
  7. They’ve been looking for months even years but won’t budge on the spec or increase their budget
  8. They don’t give me any feedback on candidates I send them
  9. There’s no customer loyalty and they always step outside our agreement
  10. I’m sick of hearing we only pay 12.5%. (I have been in recruitment for over a decade and did not start that low-HINT)

And the sad thing here is the true victim of this lack of accountability and partnership – the rather important people – the TALENT we want to attract!

 

What can be done?

 

It’s tempting to work through each of these issues one by one and talk about solutions but we’d be treating the symptoms, not the core problems.

It seems to me that most problems stem from the bounty hunter style pricing model prevalent in the market where the fee is contingent upon success. With this model, the customer has nothing to lose by being non-committal and farming the role out to multiple recruiters.

To draw an analogy, this model is like giving your tax return to 5 accountants and telling them that you’ll only pay whoever gets you the quickest result. If you did that, what kind of result would you get? I bet any accountant (or lawyer) worth their salt would turn it down instantly and if you were lucky enough to get a few to agree how would they approach the assignment? They’d rush it, they’d probably cut corners so they don’t invest too much time in case they don’t get paid. Just like you, they’d be hedging their bets.

So when we do the same thing in recruitment a few important things happen. Because we’re dealing with a number of recruiters this soaks up so much time that it’s too much effort to do a proper job brief. In fact, it’s too much effort to call everyone back or respond to the CVs they’ve sent. We haven’t spent any money so it’s no skin off our nose, right? Then the follow-up calls start and we get fed up pretty quickly.

The recruiters know how the game works so they’ll make a call on where your role should sit in their priority list. Most good recruiters will successfully place between 25% to 50% of the roles they work. That means they spend their own time and money on 10 jobs but only get paid for 2.5 to 5 of them (sometimes none). UNLESS they are search consultants working on a shared risk basis.

So, recruiters usually look at their jobs and think “what can I definitely place?”. This is where the bulk of their time will (should!) be spent. If you’re not a top priority because you don’t return calls, or you have too many recruiters working your role, or your fee is too low, or you’ve been looking for ages and you’re not paying enough money… then guess what, you get a half-hearted effort or NONE.

More importantly, we’re motivating recruiters based on speed, so it’s in their best interests to try to get the best return from the least amount of effort. This encourages what we call a flick and stick, or spray and pray approach. Basically, this means playing the numbers and throwing as many CVs out to as many customers as possible knowing that the law of averages means that something will stick. The scary thing is, this is so entrenched that Recruiter’s KPIs are actually measured and rewarded based on these numbers! I hasten to add not at Focus Point for this very reason. We are much keener on keeping an eye on our interview to placement ratio-I would be shocked if you did hire one of two candidates who we uncovered, and you interviewed…

 

The better way!

I think the solution is to throw out the contingent fee model completely or strike an exclusive deal with a recruiter who will fill the opening. Ideally, get to know a niched headhunter and pay them a portion of their fee upfront (Tip; this is normally about a third of the planned placement fee). This commits both parties to getting a quality result and puts your job firmly at the top of the priority list. It means that the recruiter doesn’t have to cut corners to get you a CV before someone else. It means recruiters can afford to take on half the number of jobs because they know they’ll get paid for all of them. It means candidates aren’t getting calls from 5 different recruiters and don’t start thinking “wow this (Client X) must be desperate!”. It also usually means you’ll be able to negotiate a discount because you’ve removed some of the recruiter’s risk. AND, the normal model is that your deposit is credited on the invoice for the placement.

Is this risky for you? Yes it probably is, but in the context of all your recruiting over a number of years, doesn’t it make good business sense to spend time up front picking a good recruiter with good references and a strong track record? Then build a strong, exclusive relationship with them until you get to the point that they know your business better than most of your staff and almost as well as you know it. If they let you down, find another agency. You might have the odd false start but over time you will get much better results and you will absolutely save money. My clients expect their new starts to bring in 1.5-2X their salary in the first year so please bear that in mind before gasping at my fee!!

 

A common misconception

 

I once had a customer say “But I’m buying a product, if I like what’s on your shelf then I’ll pay if I don’t then I won’t”. Sorry, but candidates are most definitely not sitting on a shelf waiting for your call! You’re not buying a product, you’re buying a service. You’re paying for someone to go out to market and represent your business. You’re paying for someone to search high and low, ask for referrals, network extensively, leverage an existing group of contacts and generally do whatever it takes to find you the perfect person.

Having said that, the best recruiters invest heavily in their network, so they will often be able to recommend someone they’ve already met. But it’s important to recognise, you’re still paying for a service. You’re paying for someone to successfully broker and secure a long-term relationship on your behalf that you can then benefit from quickly. Just because they are in the recruiter’s network when you ask doesn’t mean a huge amount of time (usually years) of effort hasn’t gone into making that the case. Consider this when briefing your headhunter…why should someone who is happily employed wish to resign and join you? The good people do not put their CV’s on to job boards.

 

Final thoughts

If you spent £150K (on say a piece of Software) in your business, would you spend a lot of time with a vendor to make sure they really understood what you wanted? Of course! Why is a £150K candidate any different? It’s a big investment and very expensive if you get it wrong so it pays to invest the time with quality partners to make sure you get it right.

At Focus Point we have built a variety of fee structures and replacement programmes for procuring in-demand talent. And, we added the buy or sell business idea to enable expanding companies to hire whole teams-consider how that would change the landscape for you….

 

Keeping things transparent and simple

If you choose to share information with me regarding your career aspirations you can be 100% certain no-one will know your plans unless you allow it.

How I work:

1 I will reach out to you after having already learned a little about you

2 We will have a confidential conversation and I will tell you about my “live searches”

3 If you like what you hear and want to proceed then I will make a full submission to my client

4 If you feel none of my live roles are a match for you then I will offer to generate leads for you to choose from

5 No-one will ever know your name or see your profile without your permission.

 

I believe in building relationships and realise that even if you are not looking now things can change. You would be networking with a headhunter immersed in your industry who will tip you the wink when new openings arise…

Was it something I said?

The following is not from one of the clients on my list but, it is amusing!

“Good day!

I’m going to decline what I’m sure was a lovely invitation. I recognize you have a job to do — namely, get a qualified first appointment — but I am not a lead for you, and my answer is no. If I ignored your email, you might reasonably wonder whether I didn’t get it, or whether I was considering it. This might reasonably lead to a follow up. Let me be clear: I received your email and thank you, but I am not interested. Please don’t follow-up.

There are thousands of security companies (and many thousands when all of the VARs are included), and almost all of them would like some time on my calendar. If I accepted even a 15 minute appointment from each of them once a year, I wouldn’t have any time left to do my regular job, which is helping Akamai make wiser risk choices.

But in an effort to give you a response, I’ve drafted this form note that I can quickly send to minimize my cost of you getting to a “no.” I’m sure you’ve got many questions, most of them aimed at converting my “no” to a “yes” (hint, not going to happen), so I’ve included a brief FAQ:

Q: Can I keep you on my mailing list?
A: Please remove me, unless you have documented evidence that I willfully opted into it. Odds are, you either got this list from a conference, or paid for it from Hoovers or equivalent. If you have a way to mark me as “don’t contact,” please do so.

Q: Can I send you a gift?
A: Please don’t. Either it’s not really small, in which case you run afoul of both my personal ethics & our corporate ethics policy, or it’s truly small, in which case it’s unlikely to be valuable, and it’ll just be disposed of, increasing the adverse environmental impact of our industry. Relatedly, offering me a gift if only I take a meeting is actually insulting. You’re basically trying to bribe me to take the meeting.

Q: But I see you’re a Patriots fan / oenophile / runner, and I’ve got this meaningful gift!
A: I have season tickets to the Patriots, my own wine cellar, and I don’t run as often as I’d like to. I’m happy to talk about those things, and you can find me on Twitter as @csoandy doing so – and occasionally talking security, as well.

Q: Can you refer me to someone else at Akamai?
A: No. As a standard practice, all of the information security professionals at Akamai never do blind references. If we make an introduction, we get permission first from the target, and therefore we’re investing our time and reputation. So cold intros are almost never going to get that.

Q: How do you decide who to talk to?
A: Sometimes because I’m interested in a specific technology. Sometimes because a peer highly recommends a company. Sometimes because there’s a specific hazard I’m trying to determine how best to mitigate.

Q: How do I be on your radar for when you might be interested?
A: Be awesome as a company. I recognize that’s your overall marketing team’s job, but you’re a part of that. Did you send me a boilerplate blurb like, “We’re the market-leading provider of enterprise security services that enable businesses to serve their customers without fear of compromise”? That’s boilerplate that almost any security company could claim (hey, Akamai could use that, although it’s an overly strong claim, so we wouldn’t!). In fact, that’s one of my litmus tests – if your boilerplate could describe my company, then I’m just going to stop. Use a brief technical explanation, like, “Akamai provides both security-enhanced CDN services, like DDoS mitigation, bot management, web application firewalls, and client reputation; and enterprise services like DNS-based malware filtering and simple-to-provision application VPNs to safely connect your third-parties into your network.” With a note like that, at least I can have your name in my mental map of solution providers.

Q: Great, can I call back next quarter?
A: No. In fact, be aware that I never suggest a lead developer call/email back at a set time, so if you start with, “Andy, I’m following back up as you suggested…” note that I’ll stop reading there.

Q: But I’m not a security company! Can’t you take time?
A: Then even less so. I’m almost certainly not even an appropriate target, which means you’re sending cold intros to people who aren’t appropriate targets.

Q: But I’m not trying to sell you anything! Just inviting you to a webinar, or dinner with your peers!
A: Let’s be honest, we all know those are brand-generating activities, and time consuming. Maybe you’re selling to someone else that I’d be there. But as a cold invitation, it falls into the same category of “too much of a drain on my time.” Thank you for the invitation.

Q: Did you copy this template off someone else? I’ve seen another version of this.
A: Nope, this is my original work, created because a colleague suggested that ignoring vendor emails was more discourteous than a simple “no.” My simple “no” emails generated many followup attempts, so I’ve expanded my simple message to this one, stored as a signature I can easily send out. The original is published at www.csoandy.com/files/vendor-rebuf.html.”

 

Thanks to my American, fellow recruiters for this great article.

When things go well

All too often we hear recruiters whingeing about clients or candidates and vice versa, of course! Well, thankfully most of the time things go as planned and the beauty of my job is that 3 parties benefit.

Recently I was engaged to uncover an Associate to join a long-established consultancy in the Midlands. The search progressed well and my team and I uncovered a candidate of the right ilk, trouble was he was established in a different town over an hour away from where we ideally wanted to locate him. I suggested to my client that he should consider setting him up in a satellite office as the potential business there would likely exceed the predicted revenue of the originally planned office.

Everyone likes a happy ending and suffice to say candidate and client got on very well and the new office will be established in a couple of months time. The end result? A happy candidate who has advanced his career, a happy client who has expanded his business into another town and finally…a happy headhunter who has achieved the aim.

Those in my niche will know that good quality engineers are in demand. To present an option to any of them that they choose to take up is a challenge but, it can and has been done many times so what are you waiting for…

The joy of summer

Everyone seems that much happier now that summer has arrived, even if it is only temporary!

The new GDPR regulations are almost upon us and I, for one, think that is a good thing. I say that because I do not want to receive emails about things that do not interest me at all, who does? Any potential client who asks not to receive candidate alerts will have their wishes respected. Any candidate who does not want to be informed of often unadvertised roles or other job market-related information will not be. I treat everyone with respect and am open and honest about what I can do to help you. If you are a candidate not looking to move at the moment then I’d like to suggest you connect with me on LinkedIn, you will not be bombarded with useless information and you might just see something that interests you on my regular Friday update. As a client, if you connect with me, not only will you get see the extent of my network but candidate summaries too.

I aim to be friendly, informative, and generally, a good person to know so let’s network and help each other out.

Enjoy the weather everyone!

Data Protection

You may have heard of GDPR?

Well, if you haven’t it is new legislation that is replacing the Data Protection Act 1998.

I, for one, think it is a good thing because if I ask a supplier not to contact me then I expect my wishes to be respected.  It works the other way with me too, so if your details are in my database then you have the right to know (from 25 May 2018) what those details are and you can request to see them. I have to have a legitimate reason to store your details at all or to contact you but, please bear in mind that if you apply to me, post your CV on the web or have a LinkedIn profile posted then as a headhunter I’m taking that as a good reason to get in touch.

Rules are rules and I will be complying but I’d like to add a real-world point to this; if you request that I delete your record or not to get in touch with you then you will not hear from me. So, if on occasion, you are irritated by a mail that does not apply to you then perhaps it might be best to simply delete it as the next mail might be informing you of a career-changing opportunity.

Before the new regulations take effect I will be reaching to everyone in my applicant tracking system-this is your chance to update your records or part company with me. Any records I hold that are over 12-months old with no contact made will be deleted.

I want to do the best job I can for my customers and all that I ask is that you carefully consider the potential gain by staying connected with me as opposed to severing all ties.

My best,

David

 

 

 

 

What can employers do?

The FT recently reported:

Another 125,000 people found jobs in the three months to the end of June, meaning 75.1 percent of all people between the ages of 16 and 64 were in work — the highest employment rate since records began in 1971. The unemployment rate fell from 4.5 to 4.4 percent in the quarter — the lowest recorded rate since 1975.

I  know it is very tough to procure good engineers and when my prospects become clients they often reveal that the quest to land who they need has been going on for a year or longer.

So, if you need to hire an engineer what steps can you take to land one?

Please forgive my bluntness; if you simply place ads saying what a great company you have and then list what the candidate must have or do to get the job then…the results will be poor at best.  Consider why a candidate should resign and join you, what is in it for him or her? If you started with your current company several years ago and you now have some responsibility for hiring then ponder what the company has done for you that’s kept you there. You can persist with DIY recruiting but bear in mind your value to your business per hour, wouldn’t your time be better spent doing what you do best?

Please do not assume that candidates will even trawl the internet for jobs, even if they are actively looking. I can tell you that the better people are networked with headhunters who represent them and keep them apprised of relevant current and upcoming opportunities.

You could look to hire from outside the UK. Because of Brexit, there is some uncertainty but I have spoken with non-native Brits working in the UK who feel quite sure their job is safe and they will be able to stay. I cannot say what is going to happen but just ask yourself why the UK government would wish to eject a qualified engineer, Doctor or nurse etc?

You could grow organically, hiring graduates and doing all you can to retain them. The snag is they tend to move on every 3-5 years to advance their careers and people like me track them and offer to help.

You could engage a headhunter to track down engineers who are not actively looking-these are the people you want. A good recruiter will dig to uncover imperfections in the target’s current role, carefully match them to a specific brief and demonstrate how their career aspirations will be met by changing.

Finally, I recommend you choose a recruiter who works in a specific niche. He or she will already know 100’s of people they can call and apprise of the new opening.

I cannot see how the situation can improve rapidly, for years it seems we have failed to train enough engineers and we are now seeing the result.

Happy hunting!

 

PS If you’d benefit from a free consultation then please set an appointment for me to call you; https://my.timetrade.com/book/W4LFQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

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