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The Power of Networking

I know we’ve been banging on about it for ages, but networking really is a critical skill. How important, and valuable, has really been brought home to me this week.

Last Sunday I had a casual chat about the world and everything with someone I’ve known for years. Somehow the conversation came around to my dreadful experiences of trying to find someone to re-fit our bathroom.

Basically, we’ve seen it all. Some “experts” just didn’t turn up at all. Clearly, they don’t want or need the work. Others do arrive (eventually) measure up, spout about their expertise and are then never heard from again. Other firms spend hours taking a brief and then come back with designs that bear no relation to what we discussed. The worst of all being the ones who think you’ll love that pet design they’d love in their own house. Which is clearly somewhere near Blingsville, USA rather than in Lincolnshire. Think Footballers Wives meets a 70’s discotheque.
“Why didn’t you ask me?” was the response. I was, for once, speechless. I knew my mate did all sorts of work installing bars and kitchens in hotels and restaurants but didn’t have a clue he tackled domestic projects too. I’d never thought to ask. Plumbing, tiling, plastering, joinery, electrics. It really was obvious once you thought about it.

What that proves is if you don’t ask, don’t expect people to volunteer help. They don’t magically know you’ve got a problem. For example, they may not even know you’ve been made redundant. Or they could think that talking to you about losing your job is rubbing salt in a wound. They may be afraid to ask, “are you OK, can I help?” for fear of upsetting you.

All my friends know I work for Chiumento – and that we offer outplacement. Yet several have hesitated to ask for help when they have career issues. The most common reason? They just think I am really busy and it is unfair to add to my workload.

Just this week I have helped someone get a job. Not through work but just by connecting two people I thought might be able to help each other. Turns out they were only one connection away on LinkedIn. One was hiring, the other job hunting. They just never reached out. Both have done me favours in the past, now it is pay back. That’s what networking is all about: mutual benefit.

I’ve ended my week as I started. I had a text earlier from another mate saying “you don’t know a roofer do you?” As it happens I do. He’s never done any work for me, but we know each other socially. The power of networking again.

My message to job hunters? Make sure you ask people for help.

The proof it works? Mike, the MD of our outplacement business, and I have known each other for years but we probably hadn’t spoken in 4 or 5. When he was made redundant he called me. Six weeks later I offered him a job. If he hadn’t reached out, I’d never have known he was job hunting.

A final thought: relationships with recruitment agencies often work the other way. They’ll ask first and then pay back later. It always amazes me when I speak to senior people who complain that recruitment agencies don’t return their calls. I always ask, “did you take their sales calls when you were hiring?” The answer is invariably no. So that breaks the first rule of networking – it cuts both ways.
‘The power of networking…’ was written by Ian Gooden, CEO Chiumento Ltd. If you like what you’ve read why not follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and read all our future careers advice and musings on the world of work.

How to write your CV to beat the bots…

You can’t escape it, robots are taking over.  So maybe not in the way depicted in sci-fi films, thankfully no terminators are roaming the streets and we’re not all living in the matrix.  But, AI is playing a bigger and bigger part in our lives, and recruitment is no different.

When applying for a job, your CV is just as likely to read by a ‘bot’ as it is by a person.  With some jobs receiving more than 100 applications, most of which aren’t suitable, it can take hours to screen them all to find those few suitable applicants.

AI and the magic of algorithms means that the time taken to assess CVs is dramatically reduced.  By allowing a machine to do this time-consuming task, recruiters and hiring managers can spend more time engaging with candidates.

What can you do to make your CV bot-friendly, to ensure that you make it through their algorithms.

  1. You need to treat you CV like marketers do a website. Keywords, keywords and more keywords. Read the job description carefully and make sure the key skills they request are in your CV. Also try to match their phrasing and terminology.  For example, don’t put L&D if they call it learning and development… Don’t just focus on experience, remember to add soft skills too, such as communication or time management as this will be desired for many roles.
  2. Although you’re writing it for a bot it still needs to make sense, throwing a load of keywords onto a page won’t make you magically appear on every recruiter’s shortlist. Try to get your keywords into logical sentences, linking them with examples of your achievements.  For example, ‘I used my negotiation skills and saved the company £X on their catering spend over the course of 6 months’
  3. Keep it simple – while a person might know that a HR Director, Head of People, Staff Happiness Officer or other such titles are possible the same thing, a bot might not. If you’ve a slightly unusual job title then use one that is more widely understood.  This will make more easily understood.

Remember this works for your digital CV (LinkedIn) as much as it does your physical one, perhaps even more so.  The search function on LinkedIn is all about key words, so make sure your online profile is as optimised as it can be for your chosen profession and role.  This will help you get into and, to the top of, the search results.

People and personal interactions will always remain at the heart of the recruitment process but technology can help the enhance it. Speed up the process and give the people more time to do what they do best, interact with other people.

‘How to write your CV to beat the bots?’ was written by Lesley Colella If you like what you’ve read why not follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and read all our future advice and musings on the world of work.

 

Why looking for job is like looking for love….

Looking for love and looking for a job have a lot more in common than you might first think. Most people don’t enjoy the process, it’s something they do to reach their goal of a new job/relationship…

So how can lessons in love help you with your job search…

1. Get ready for rejection – you’re not going to get the first, or maybe even the 10th job you apply for, just like you won’t fall in love with the first person you meet. So, get ready for some ‘thanks, but no’, or worse, no response at all to your applications. Don’t take it to heart, it isn’t personal. However, while ambition and self-belief are a good thing, try to apply for only those roles you realistically have a chance of getting. This will limit the number of rejections you receive and help to keep your confidence intact!

2. Technology has changed everything – ok so it’s hard to find a part of modern life that hasn’t been changed by technology, or namely the internet. But dating and job hunting are ones that have been totally revolutionised. Finding love is now more, swiping right on Tinder and less about talking to someone in a bar… Just as job hunting is now all about jobboards and LinkedIn and less about searching the job sections of newspapers and magazines. What this means is it’s easier and quicker. You can see a wider choice of roles, know more about any job before you apply, have a vast library of information on the company to help make your decision. The whole application process is also faster you can apply and potentially interview for a role within days rather than weeks.

3. Chemistry –someone can be a perfect match on paper and tick every box and requirement, but just not click when you meet in person. The same can be said when looking for a role. A job could sound great in the advert but when you turn up for an interview you realise it’s not the right place for you. Just as you might not be the right person for some organisations. Don’t underestimate the importance of chemistry, team or cultural fit. You will potentially spend more time with your colleagues than your family, so make sure the people and the company are the right match for you.

4. It won’t come to you – sitting and waiting for love to find you isn’t going to get you very far, the same can be said when job hunting. You need to make it clear you’re open to offers and be ready to make the first move when you see something you like. Check your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and visible to recruiters, have a CV and cover letter ready, register with relevant job boards and recruiters and check in with these on a regular basis. This will all increase your chances of finding and securing your next role.

If you need any other help and advice on finding your next role from keeping your job search a secret to making a good impression on your first day then check out our job seeking help and advice section.

Are cover letters a thing of the past?

When collating some of our previous articles on career and job seeking advice, I realised that we’d not written anything about cover letters. No advice on what to put in them, what to leave out etc. It got me thinking about whether they still formed a part of the job seeking process or whether they’d become, just like paper based job applications, a thing of the past.

I’m part of what I think of as the ‘in-between generation’. By that I mean I grew up in a pretty much technology free world, but since graduating and joining the world of work in 2001, I’ve been surrounded by technology and seen it take over nearly every aspect of our lives.
I remember my first few jobs after graduation – one was secured via a friend who recommended me and the other I went to a local recruiter who passed my CV on to one of their clients. At no point did I write a covering letter.

Fast forward to 2006 when I next looked for a role, by then jobboards had burst onto the scene and changed the way we all look for work. Again, no covering letter, just a small box to add some supporting text when submitting my application. The same can be said when I looked for my now current role a decade later. I know previously, when on the other side of the fence and recruiting into my team, I was just sent CVs to peruse. I wasn’t given any additional letters or notes that the candidate may have supplied.

Does that mean a cover letter is no longer required?

Part of me wants to say yes – why waste your time crafting a beautifully written letter for no-one to read it. One statistic that always seems to get quoted a lot is that a CV gets given the grand total of about 6 seconds attention before it’s either put in to the yes or no pile. If such little time is given to, what is a very detailed document, then even less would be given to any supporting text.

The idea of a letter in general is now rather old fashioned, I can’t remember the last time I received a letter thought the post that wasn’t a bill. And even those are now becoming common to receive digitally. I would also chose sending an email over printing and posting a letter. I know that cover letters, if they are used, generally aren’t posted but the formality of a properly written and laid out letter feels a tad behind the times.

However, the other part of me feels that perhaps we’re being a bit harsh on the poor cover letter. They still have a useful part to play. But perhaps they just need to be revamped and used in a different way. A CV on its own is a rather bland document, basically just a list of qualifications, positions and achievements. There isn’t much in there to tell the reader about you.

The cover letter or supporting document or whatever you want to call it, gives you the opportunity to tell the recruiter/line manager a little more about yourself, highlight the areas they may not notice, or skip past, when giving your CV those mere 6 seconds of their time. While I wouldn’t attach a cover letter as a separate document to an email, I wouldn’t dream of simply sending my CV without putting anything in the body of the email.

Maybe we should call it a cover email as that is essentially what it is. On the rare occasions I have seen the communication that accompanies a candidate’s CV, a well written one goes a long way to giving me a positive mind-set when reading their CV.

But what about applications made via a job board? While there isn’t generally the option to attach anything other than your CV, most give you a space to add some supporting text. OK so what you write might not get read by the recruiter, let alone the hiring manager, but on the other hand it might. And it might make all the difference. Use that space wisely and explain why you’re the perfect person for the role, how your skills and experience match their requirements and let a bit of your personality show through.

To answer my original question is the cover letter a thing of the past? Yes – You no longer send CVs via post, so a cover letter in the formal sense is no longer required. However, I personally think it has evolved and been replaced by the more informal email or personal statement that you submit when making an application. I wouldn’t apply for a role with just my CV, even if it’s only a short 200-300 words it’s always better to have something than nothing… So watch this space for some upcoming advice on supporting statements to fill an obvious gap in our published careers advice articles.

Oh no it isn’t: what’s with the profile photographs on LinkedIn?

Many years ago, when I worked as a head-hunter, I did several campaigns in the US. One of the differences I noticed immediately was that CVs usually carried photographs of the candidates – something you rarely saw at that time in the UK.

What had us all bemused was that most of the ‘snaps’ were obviously taken many, many years previously. You could tell that immediately – from the fashions to the hairstyles and the backgrounds the pictures were taken against. No way were these images recent.

Roll on to 2018 and I am seeing the same trend with LinkedIn photographs. I have noticed it mainly because I’ve been doing a lot of interviews lately. I try as hard as I can to share the travel burden with candidates – so often organise ‘mid-point’ meetings in hotels or business centres rather than drag people to me.

Often these meetings feel a bit clandestine. Not quite ‘under the station clock, holding a copy of the FT and wearing a pink carnation’ but getting on that way. Often you are in a busy hotel lobby trying to pick your candidate out of the many other people obviously there for interviews or other business meetings.

I also sometimes spot candidates casting an eye around just in case someone they know might catch them being interviewed. Only last week I was mid-discussion with a candidate when an HRD I’ve known for years (an ex-colleague) tapped me on the shoulder. She was in the middle of being interviewed by the MD of a potential employer. I was asked if I wouldn’t mind popping over to her table when I’d finished my meeting to provide an ‘on the spot’ reference. Turning around I immediately recognised the MD too. Small world.

On that note, you only have to walk in to any 3-4* hotel lounge these days to realise that they are hotspots of business. At virtually every table there is a business meeting of some sort happening. I constantly meet recruiters I know in these places – and increasingly clients too. In fact, in some hotels, I suspect a resident would have a real struggle finding a quiet spot to read a book or magazine during business hours.

Amongst all this hive of activity you somehow have to find your guest. And I’d adopted the approach of having LinkedIn photos to hand so that I’d instantly recognise people. Or so I hoped. Instead the US CV trait seems to have struck LinkedIn.

So many candidates looked nothing like their LinkedIn picture. And usually because it was at least 10 years out of date. So why is this?

It might be laziness. However, I doubt it. In most cases people had obviously been updating their profiles continuously. Just not the photograph.

Was it vanity? You know that picture where you weigh a few pounds less or have a slightly newer suit on. Or perhaps you had a decent professional photo taken years ago that was just so good you can’t replace it? Again, I doubt it. Many of the photographs were far from ‘professional’ and some would have been more at home on the likes of Facebook.

The elephant in the room – and it is a very big elephant – is undoubtedly age discrimination. Despite legislation, HR talking about best practice etc etc people still feel the need to make themselves appear younger to potential employers. That becomes even more obvious when you start interviewing them and they start talking about jobs that don’t appear on their CV. The first decade or more of their career being expunged from history to make them appear a more youthful, and fast-tracked, version of themselves.

This whole pantomime tells me we are still miles away from a world that judges people on capability. Many, many people still clearly believe that being older limits your job options – as candidates demonstrate every day by those profile photographs on LinkedIn.

Perhaps LinkedIn should ban all profile pictures on the basis recruiters can use them directly or indirectly to discriminate? Or is it more a case that we should all just be ourselves rather than trying to be Peter Pan? Is pandering to other people’s discriminatory tendencies part of the problem?

I for one have a profile picture that was taken earlier this year. Yes, I look a bit older, However I am also wiser. I’ve learned a huge amount over the last couple of years – and I am better at my job today than I was two or three years ago when the previous picture was taken.

In the spirit of Groucho Marx – ‘I wouldn’t want to be part of a business that would only employ a younger version of me’.

‘Oh no it isn’t: what’s with the profile photographs on LinkedIn?…’ was written by Ian Gooden, CEO Chiumento Group. If you like what you’ve read why not follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and read all our future advice and musings on the world of work.

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