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Category Archives : Careers Advice

Personal branding: will social media come back to haunt me?

In the age of the internet you can’t afford to forget about personal branding when job hunting. I was listening to the radio the other day and heard a really interesting statistic: apparently over 50% of employers in London openly admit to checking potential recruits’ social media activities before making hiring decisions. As I’ve subsequently discovered, that’s not exactly latest news. The Daily Telegraph reported some similar statistics way back in 2010.

When job hunting you do have to be acutely aware of your personal brand – ie the image you create in the minds of others. And the key word is image. Potential employers are unlikely to get to know you in great depth even during an extended assessment process. Instead they will be seeing lots of dots and joining them up to build a picture of you.

How accurate that picture is can depend on a lot of factors. If they’ve only used interviews – and they often do – then the picture may not be very accurate at all. Research repeatedly shows that interviews are a very unreliable way of predicting future job performance.

Given interviews are so unreliable, it is perhaps not surprising employers look for other sources of information too. Years ago, the main source of that insight would have been references. However today references frequently contain little more than a confirmation of the dates you worked for someone and your last job title. Many companies decline to make any qualitative comment about the individual.

What that has done is create a vacuum of information. A vacuum that some hiring managers – with or without their employer’s knowledge – will seek to fill with information from other sources. And where else do they turn but the internet.

Now if you are lucky and have a common name – like John Smith – and live in a big city the chances are they will be so overloaded by Google “hits” that they will probably never find you. However, those of us with less common names – especially if we live in small towns or villages – will be much easier to track. If you’ve not done it recently we strongly recommend you do Google yourself so you know what others will see…

What those Google searches will often throw up are links not just to “business” sites like LinkedIn but also links to social media profiles like Facebook. And that’s where great care is required. Many employers will not make the distinction between you at work and you in the wider world. They will care about how you conduct yourself generally and may, rightly, consider some behaviours and activities to be inconsistent with their values, ethics and business brand. Many companies take the view that even when not at work their employees’ behaviours and actions reflect on them.

What will also shoot you in the foot is if you are in the habit of publicly criticising your current employer or boss on social media. Today them, tomorrow us.

So, before you start job hunting clean up your social media act. The first obvious step is to activate privacy controls so that only friends you recognise can see your photographs, stories, comments and updates. Only recently we heard of a case where someone in-advisedly checked-in on Facebook from a hotel in Spain when they were supposedly off sick… Stupid yes, career damaging definitely.

If you decide to leave your Facebook etc open to the world then you need to treat your account to a serious reality check. Or better still ask someone to do it for you. Ideally someone who is very sensitive to reputation issues and will have the courage to tell you that those hen weekend or stag night photos do your personal brand no favours at all. If in doubt, delete it.

The internet pioneer Sir Tim Berners-Lee once famously said “Imagine that everything you are typing is being read by the person you are applying to for your first job. Imagine that it’s all going to be seen by your parents and your grandparents and your grandchildren as well”.
Great advice. Don’t forget personal branding, don’t allow your social media presence to get in the way of a great job opportunity.

‘Personal branding… will social media come back to haunt me??’ was written by Ian Gooden, CEO Chiumento Consulting. 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.

Making first impressions count

Making first impressions count is vital when looking for a new role. Before they meet you most employers will take have built a picture of you from a variety of sources. They will have looked at your CV and probably your LinkedIn profile. They may have received a summary from a recruitment agent.  Of course they will take everything into account before they decide on who to hire – your experience, potential, cultural fit and so on. But the interview is the key to landing the role.

Whether it lasts 30 mins or 2 hours, you should not under estimate the importance of the first impression you make. However objective the selection process is, human beings tend to make quick judgements when they meet people so it is important you make a great first impression. By doing this, you get a head start before the real questions even begin.

Here are my five top tips to making first impressions count:

  1. Arrive in good shape

Plan what you’re going to wear and get it ready the night before. Even if there is only the slightest chance of rain, make sure you are prepared. The more you plan, the more relaxed you’ll feel on the day. And it may sound obvious, but make sure you know where you’re going. Have you double-checked the address? Plan your route. If you’re driving, is there parking? And give yourself plenty of time, especially if you’re travelling on public transport. Allow for at least one bus or train to be cancelled. It’s always good to grab a coffee or a water before you go in. This will give you a chance to calm down and think about the interview ahead. Before you leave, go to the loos to check how you look.

  1. Warm up

An interview is a performance. And if you think about it, performers always warm up before a big event. Actors and singers will tell you that they warm their focal chords before they go on stage and there’s a very good reason for this. Stress and nerves cause the muscles in the body to tighten and this includes the vocal chords. It’s why people often cough and splutter when they are nervous. You can avoid this by warming up your vocal chords before you arrive for your interview. Choose your favourite tongue twister and repeat it out loud. Don’t worry about looking odd. I remember walking up and down Wimbledon High Street one morning saying, “Ken Dodd’s Dog’s Deaf” out loud. You’d be surprised how few looks I got!

  1. Prepare for ‘small talk’

Treat everybody as though they are interviewing you. From the receptionist to the person who picks you up in reception. It’s worth remembering that the person who meets you in reception could well be your interviewer. Be polite and positive to everybody you meet. Don’t, for example, talk about the terrible journey you’ve had or how difficult the building was to find, even if it’s all true. Don’t huff and puff if you have to wait at reception to be signed in. You must set out to impress everyone so think about your ‘small talk’ before you arrive. The questions you’ll ask on the way to the interview room.

  1. The dreaded hand shake

This is a case of ‘not too hard and not too soft’. Getting the balance right is important. Some people think the firmer the better because it shows self-confidence. Whether that’s true or not, you don’t want to crush your interviewer’s fingers before they’ve asked their first question. Equally, a ‘lifeless’ hand is not a pleasant experience for the recipient. If you’re in any doubt, practice with friends or family.

  1. Owning the space

When you enter the interview room you’ll probably be shown where to sit. If not, ask. Make sure you settle yourself. Get your CV, notepad and pen out. If you’re offered water, take it. If you’re offered tea or coffee, ask for water instead. It is much easier to sip water during an interview than drink tea or coffee and it will be much more helpful in keeping you lubricated – a dry mouth is another symptom of nerves. Your interviewer(s) will be looking at you as well as listening to you so remember posture will have an impact. Sit up and straight and don’t fidget. Oh, and one final point, make sure your phone is switched off.

‘Making first impressions count?’ was written by Mike Burgneay, MD Chiumento Consulting. 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.


Networking for job seekers – top 5 tips

Networking is one of the most effective activities if you are looking a new role and is a skill every job seeker should develop.  Networking has a number of advantages. It can help you find out about jobs before they are widely advertised. Often jobs aren’t advertised at all and networking is an effective way of finding these ‘hidden’ opportunities.

It can certainly give you an edge in the recruitment process if you are approaching a company via a referral or personal introduction rather than ‘going in cold’.

Networking includes a multitude of activities; it could be attending meetings at a professional institute or a conference/seminar/exhibition. It could be reaching out and connecting with previous colleagues, customers, competitors and suppliers. LinkedIn is a brilliant way to research and connect with people who may be able to help you.

The chances are, you are probably networking a lot more than you think!

My five top networking tips are:

  1. Create a directory of your network. Think about the people you’ve worked with, old bosses, customers, suppliers, associates and other people that you know. Create a list and then rank contacts by how valuable you think they will be to you and how comfortable you feel approaching them. It’s a good idea to practice. This will help you get in the swing of networking and will build your confidence. Start with people you feel very comfortable getting in contact with but who may not beat the top of the ‘value to me’ list. This means if things don’t go according to plan you haven’t wasted a great networking contact.
  2. Plan ahead and work out what you want to achieve from networking conversations. Are you looking for more introductions? Can they advise you on your CV or introduce to someone who is hiring? Can they suggest any organisations that might be looking for new talent? Can they give you advice or information about a particular sector?
  3. Get your elevator pitch right. When you’re networking you’ll probably only get a short amount of time with someone. If you meet somebody at an event you may only have a few minutes. It’s really important you can describe yourself succinctly and confidently. This is your ‘elevator pitch’ and should only take 20-30 seconds.  “I help companies grow sales and profits” sounds so much better than “I am a business development manager” and immediately conveys the value you can add to a business.
  4. Reciprocate. This is one of the golden rules of networking. Many people will be open to sharing their ideas and occasionally their contacts with you but you must be willing to offer your help and advice in return. If you aren’t willing to reciprocate you may find that people are less willing to help you.
  5. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and complete. Connect with relevant people. Join relevant groups and contribute to discussions. It’s important to make sure that your LinkedIn profile matches your CV.

‘Networking for job seekers?’ was written by Mike Burgneay, MD Chiumento Consulting. 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.

Negotiate your starting salary

Discussing money is always a delicate matter. As the recent gender pay gap revelations at the BBC shows, salaries can vary a great deal between two very similar roles. This variance is prevalent across all sectors and professions. To keep the salary for new positions ‘hush hush’ it’s not uncommon for job adverts to state the salary as attractive, competitive or negociable. While this means current staff remain unaware of what their new colleagues may earn, it also leaves applicants slightly in the dark as to the salary on offer.

If you’re working with a recruitment consultant then they should have discussed salary brackets with both you and their client in advance, hopefully minimising the risk of a large mismatch. But with some salary bands covering £10,000 plus there is room for disappointment.

But what happens if you’re offered the job but the salary isn’t what you were hoping for?  How can you negotiate your starting salary?

1. Ask – us Brits, as a rule, don’t like to haggle, we tend to stick to paying the price that’s quoted. The same goes for job offers. Many people just take the offer they’re given, regardless of whether they’re happy with it or not. While we don’t suggest you always ask for more, if you feel that the figure you’ve been offered doesn’t reflect the skills and experience you’d bring then ask. It doesn’t have to be a bold and brash demand, it could simply be.. ‘I’m delighted to accept the role and really excited about the opportunity of working for XXXX. However, as I bring with me X year’s experience of XXX, the salary is a little lower than I was hoping for.’

2. Know what you’re worth – Don’t base your expectations on your current salary, as you may be paid under (or over) the current market rate for your role. Before you attempt to negotiate your starting salary, do your research. There are a number of salary comparison tools available, many that allow you to compare salaries for your job title, sector and region. This will give you an idea of what you’re worth and whether your expectations are correct. While you may want to earn £60k if every other HR Manager in the area is earning on average £50k, you’re unlikely to be successful, but if you’re being offered £40k and the average is £55k then there is perhaps room for movement.

3. Be prepared to compromise – until you start your new role, a CV and a few interviews are the only experience your new employer will have of you. Asking them to pay more without any hard evidence of your ability is, to a certain extent, a leap of faith. One that not every employer would be willing, or would have the budget, to take. If they can’t reach your ideal figure but come close enough, be willing to compromise. If the role offers you good long-term prospects it’s perhaps better to have some patience. There is no harm in accepting a lower figure with the caveat that you’ll have a pay review in three or six months. This will give you time to impress your new employer and build up evidence of why you deserve the extra money.

4. There is more than money – salary alone isn’t everything. If your new employer is unable to offer a higher salary there may be other perks that could be available. Additional holiday perhaps, a better company car, gym membership or private healthcare. Think outside the box and don’t just focus on the pounds and pence.
If you’ve been open and honest about your expectations from the beginning then most employers would offer a salary that reflects this.

‘How to negotiate your starting salary’ was written by Verity Morrish, Marketing Manager Chiumento Consulting. 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.

I’ve got a job offer. Now what?

It is nice to be wanted. And career-wise nothing sends a stronger message than a job offer. 

Getting an offer is to be celebrated. There may have been hundreds of applicants and you’re the one who has been chosen. It tells you your CV was pretty impressive and your interview skills were better than others. You did well and deserve a hearty pat on the back.

In all the excitement it is easy to say yes and accept on the spot – without thinking through whether this is the right offer, not just any offer. No doubt if you are working through an agency they’ll want you to say yes there and then. After all, their fee depends on your decision. However, you can, and should, take time to reflect.

Any career choice is a big one. Most of us spend more of our waking lives – at least Monday to Friday – at work rather than home. Our happiness at work impinges on much more than 9-5 too. It shapes how we behave in our wider lives. Miserable at work often means grumpy and irritable at home. And if you take a job with too little pay, too long a commute or too little job satisfaction your initial elation will soon turn to frustration and resentment.

Way back when you started your job search you should have taken time to consider the essentials your next job has to deliver. Now’s the time to go back to that list and start evaluating the offer against your own criteria. Is this a great offer – or is your excitement more about being wanted than the actual intrinsic value of the job?

Some key questions you may want to ask might include:-

  • Is the pay enough? Can you actually live on it – including the cost of travel?
  • Is the journey sustainable long term? Heading over for an interview was one thing. Could you do that trip every single day? Possibly for years?
  • Did you actually like the people you met? Could you imagine yourself being with them for hours at a time?
  • Does the employer’s culture match up to your own values? Or did you find yourself questioning what they do or how they do it?
  • Is the job enough of a challenge? Or would you quickly get bored?
  • Are there career opportunities? If things like promotion and training are important to you make sure they are realistically on offer.
  • Does the job actually fit with your wider life? For example does it demand long or very variable working patterns? How does that impact on your family, your interests and your commitments?

It is likely that what you defined at the start of your journey was a “dream job”. Your ideal, perfect role and environment. Those don’t come along very often – some compromise is nearly always required. However too much compromise often results in dissatisfaction and disappointment.

Before you say “yes” just be sure you are walking into a new job with your eyes wide open. You are allowed to say “thanks, but no thanks”. Or “yes, but only if…”

It is a big decision. Make sure it is the right one.