Do you need a career plan?

What would you say if someone asked you to outline your career plan? Are you the sort of person who can give a step by step account of the coming five years? Perhaps you’d struggle to outline the next five months! The question is, does it even matter either way?

If you’ve attended any interviews recently, you’re highly likely to have been asked some form of the career plan question.

For instance:

  • Where do you see yourself in the next year/five years/ten years?
  • What are your goals for the next year/five years/ten years?
  • What are your longer-term career goals?
  • What’s your dream job?
  • Tell me more about your career hopes or aspirations?
  • What are your future goals?
  • Where do you see yourself in your career and what’s next for you?

The wording is different yet the core meaning is the same. The interviewer is trying to establish your intentions, including how likely you are to commit to the opening they’re recruiting for.

They’re also attempting to gauge your level of ambition. Depending on the job role and company set up, they may hope to see that you’re open to internal development opportunities. Conversely, they may be trying to make sure you’re not planning to climb the ranks far sooner than they’d be able to accommodate!

How to answer this sort of interview question:

Before we return to the main focus of our post (namely, whether career plans really matter!), we want to share this blog post from The Balance Careers. It contains some fantastic tips on how to answer these interview questions, with example answers to help you hone yours.

Now back to those career plans. Do you really need one?

To quote Melody Wilding, writing for Forbes, “you can move forward confidently in your career without a five-year plan. You can still be successful while doing it from a place of agility and resiliency, not pushing and forcing.”

Yes, this is excellent news for anyone who struggles to map out their future! That said, there are also some useful insights to make any existing career plans more effective.

Summarising some key points from Wilding’s feature:

  • None of us can predict our future – and that includes our future priorities and opportunities.
  • If you’re overly focused on one set plan, you may reject ‘important opportunities.’
  • You may see setbacks as failures and stop trying.
  • All in all, you may end up feeling ‘stuck’ in your career.

How to plan more effectively:

The above isn’t to say you shouldn’t consider your future plans at all. Wilding recommends:

  • Questioning whether the career path you’re on is your own or someone else’s (i.e. are you actually pursuing someone else’s idea of success? That someone else could be a boss, former teacher, partner, friend, family member…)
  • Questioning any ‘shoulds’ that crop up. For instance, saying you should pursue a promotion in your current line of work or you should want to gain managerial experience.
  • Considering the shorter term. What do you see yourself changing or not changing in the coming year?
  • Taking a more experimental approach; allowing yourself to make small changes that you can continually adapt and respond to, rather than pursuing a rigid five-year plan.
  • ‘Reframing failure as feedback’ and looking at what you’ve learned from the situation and what you can do next.
  • Reviewing your plans on a regular basis to make sure they still fit your current intentions.

What to do next:

Why not keep things simple and think about your coming year.

What are your priorities right now? Are there any non-negotiables for your next role? Is there anything that has previously been non-negotiable that you may now be open to?

Work through all of today’s questions in your own time and you’ll be ready for the career plan question…both from yourself and your future interviewers!

A reminder to bookmark, return to and share our News & Advice feed throughout January for more positive new year content. You can also connect with us via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn



Most-wanted employee traits

Introducing the employee traits that could speed up your job search…

As per yesterday’s post, we’re dedicating all of January to positive news items to support your career goals. Today, we’ll take a look at the six top traits that can enhance job search success.

Each of these attributes has been selected by recruiters, so you know they’re qualities that employers are genuinely looking for.

We’ll also share our own pointers throughout this post to help you get the most out of the information provided.

A reminder before you read on…

You don’t necessarily need to possess each trait to find a new job! When reading articles such as these, look out for those characteristics you already have and consider how you can best highlight them.

As for any remaining qualities, there’s always the chance to build these in future.

Six of the most-wanted employee traits

1. Proactivity

  • This quality earned a unanimous vote from the recruiters. It could also be referred to as ‘initiative’ as the description details the ability to prioritise, alongside working ‘independently and unprompted’.
  • Brainstorm examples of when your employers have benefited from your initiative and/or proactive nature. Weave these into your CV and interview responses.
  • Really want to prove your initiative? Consider the ways you can go beyond your job-seeking competitors. For example, by taking your interview research a step further and suggesting ways you can help achieve company goals or overcome business challenges.

2. Adaptability

  • Again, this attribute could come under another name: ‘flexibility’. Employers are looking to see that you can adapt to any changes that occur – whether these are changes to your everyday working role or larger organisational happenings.
  • As above (and for each of our subsequent tips!) start by brainstorming some of your finest practical examples. What changes have you faced and overcome at work?
  • You can also ensure to remain outwardly calm and positive regarding any surprises or changes that occur throughout your recruitment process. Whether that’s being interviewed by additional team members or being set an unexpected task. Often your attitude to taking on the task is a key part of the decision-making process.

3. Communication

  • Effective communication skills are vital. This isn’t just about your workplace conversations, yet rather each of your verbal, non-verbal and written cues. 
  • Convey positivity and respect towards each point of contact you encounter during your job search. That’s everyone from the receptionist you meet while waiting for your interview to the prospective colleagues you’re introduced to.
  • Don’t think your written communications have to stop at your CV and cover letter. Interview thank you emails offer another opportunity to demonstrate your writing skills. What’s more, there’s nothing to stop you from producing a document that showcases some of your recent projects or other working successes.

4. Commercial sense

  • A strong sense of business savvy or ‘commercial awareness’ can set you apart from your job-seeking competitors. This includes, yet is not limited to, an awareness of relevant industry trends and business opportunities.
  • This takes us back to that need to research beyond the business basics. Investigate industry and economic news reports, watch out for patterns and trends, and consider how your skills could be of benefit.
  • Ask interviewers questions about industry opportunities and challenges. Listen carefully to the responses and, where possible, tell your interviewer why you’re best placed to support them.

5. Empathy

  • Who wants to work with colleagues (or companies) who fail to put themselves in others’ shoes? The ability to be tactful and sensitive is prized and may just become one of the most valuable skills of the future.
  • There are many ways to communicate empathy during your interview. It starts by treating your interviewer like the individual they are. Find out more about what they enjoy about working for the company and the primary challenges they face within their role. Acknowledge their viewpoints.
  • Express empathy when discussing former colleagues or business challenges you’ve faced. Your empathy should also extend to your former employer. What’s more, you should remain mindful of giving away sensitive company information. You also want to convey trust!

6. A positive mindset 

  • The ability to focus on the positives of a situation tells employers you’ll always look for the best in things – something that can really help when faced with future challenges.
  • Let’s return to that old adage about never speaking negatively about colleagues or employers during interviews. It can be tempting to speak too freely about tricky bosses or unpleasant working environments. Instead, spin negatives on their head and discuss the positive outcomes. For example, a brief mention of a challenging role which has helped you foster X and Y skills.
  • Remember those non-verbal communication skills; keep your body language open, smile, and tell your interviewer what would excite or inspire you about working for them.

We hope this post has helped you identify some of your strengths and how to express them. Don’t forget to keep returning to our News & Advice feed throughout January for more support.



How failure can benefit your career

Think your early career failure will ruin your future? Think again, it could be the making of your success!

December can be a trying time of year for anyone who isn’t where they want to be in their career. This could be due to missing out on a promotion, not getting invited for a second interview, or even accepting the wrong opportunity.

It’s one of those months where you’re more likely to be meeting up with people you haven’t seen in a while – and answering all sorts of questions about your life and work!

Don’t let this play on your mind. Instead, think about how your recent failures could benefit your future.

How failure can lead to success:

A University study has found that early-career failure can lead to greater success in the longer term. Providing as the person who’s experienced the setback makes the effort to give things another go!

The research pool consisted of scientists about to embark on their careers. Each participant had previously sought funding and the pool was divided into two groups based on their outcomes. One group had just missed out on funding, while the other group had only just achieved the funding.

Each group was followed for a 10-year period, which greatly enhances the validity of these findings.

The ‘near-miss’ group went on to publish as many research papers as their ‘just-made-it’ counterparts. However, most impressively, the near-miss participants also went on to have more hit papers.

Even though this study focused on early career failures, we hazard a guess (from many years of working with clients and candidates!) that the findings will apply broadly throughout the work context.

What is failing forward?

We learned of this study via Stylist magazine, who also explore the concept of ‘failing forward’. This is when you use your failures as a chance to ‘learn and progress’.

As the article suggests, we’ll all fail at something at some point in our career. We just need to learn how to keep going. Hopefully, you can keep this in mind throughout your Christmas conversations.

Struggling to get over a spell of job rejection? Here’s another must-read post.

Ready to find success in a new role? Visit our jobs page.



Career advice: how to handle job rejection

Have you faced more than your fair share of job rejection? Or have you been rejected for something that you thought was an absolute given? Sharing some insider insights and advice…

Recognise that there are many reasons for job rejection.

It’s hard not to take any form of rejection personally; particularly when you’re given all the cues that you’re a good fit for a role. However, rather than dwelling on what you’ve done wrong (which might not be anything!) focus on what could have gone right for someone else this time.

You see that we haven’t said what someone else has done right yet rather what’s gone right for them? For instance…

  • You could be super qualified and/or experienced, yet the selected candidate could be even more so or simply have one skill or bit of experience that you don’t (yet!).
  • You might have indicated that you’re looking for career progression when the interviewer knows that they can’t offer this and thinks you’ll soon be bored.
  • Your interviewer may really like your personality but feel someone else will slot in better with certain team members.
  • Your interview could have been great. But someone else’s interview may have flowed better.
  • It could be that there was barely anything between you and your competition and your interviewer simply went by instinct. In this case, perhaps you would have been the one selected on another day.

We could go on – and it could be a complete mix of the above/other factors!

But what if it happens over and over again?

This still doesn’t necessarily mean it’s personal. You could be looking for jobs within a particularly competitive industry or picking roles with unusually high application numbers.

Keep applying and keep applying well! Make sure you take the time to work on each application and interview. Plus, where possible, make sure you’re always seeking feedback on those roles that you didn’t get.

Your recruitment consultant should assist you in gaining interview feedback to help you with your future applications.

Ready to look for your next role? Visit our jobs page



Interview thank you letters – should you send them?

Should you send interview thank you letters when working with a recruitment agency?

It’s always great to see careers and recruitment topics featured in the mainstream media. One of the latest examples is Cosmopolitan’s focus on whether it’s appropriate to send job interview thank you notes.

There’s some really helpful advice within the piece. However, this particular article only applies to those interviewing directly with employers.

What about when your interview has been arranged via a recruitment agency?

In this case, it’s not appropriate to communicate directly with the interviewer/s, unless your consultant has specifically asked you to do so.

The client (your prospective employer) has chosen to work with a recruitment agency for a number of reasons. This is often partially due to time restrictions and wanting to ensure that there’s a dedicated person who’s committed to you throughout the selection process.

They will have arranged specific check-in points with your consultant, who remains your primary point of contact for interview feedback and similar.

So when will you receive your interview feedback…and when can you provide yours?

The specific timings will vary by business and agency. Most reputable agencies will take a proactive approach and want to hear from you soon after your client interview.

They’ll be interested to hear your perspective; this may include aspects such as…

  • How you felt the interview went
  • Your perceived connection with your interviewer/s
  • Any concerns you had regarding challenging questions or items that arose
  • Your interest in accepting the role if offered

Your consultant will also be in touch with the client at the soonest opportunity; as dictated by the employer’s availability.

Alongside relaying your feedback and interest in the role (where applicable), they’ll also gather the employer’s feedback. At this stage, it may be a case of awaiting further updates regarding second interviews or other selection processes.

Your consultant should advise you of the above. In certain circumstances (for instance, client holidays/travel or the need to await in-house meetings) it may be the case that there’s a bit of a wait before the client will enter their decision-making process. Your consultant should also keep you updated on this.

But what if you’d still really like to send interview thank you letters?

Even though it’s not appropriate to contact the client directly, there is another option! Why not email a thank you note via your recruitment consultant, detailing those aspects you would like to send on to the client? Revisit the Cosmopolitan piece for advice regarding the contents of this.

That way, your agency can relay your feedback via their email or phone conversations with the client.

This will still enable you to highlight your interest in the role and could help you stand out from your competitors.

Ideally, this should be sent to your consultant soon after your interview so that the experience is fresh in mind…and your feedback reaches the client before their decision is made.

Of course, before you get to the interview stage you need to apply for suitable vacancies! Here are the latest local opportunities.



What employers want – key candidate skills

What do employers want to see in their future team members and how can you demonstrate these abilities?

It’s always helpful to remember that (for the most successful companies!) the recruitment process is about far more than checking experience boxes. Business leaders are also looking for candidates that possess the appropriate skills to enhance their performance and complement the rest of the team.

One study has uncovered six such skills that employers want to see in their recruits:

  1. Adaptability (71.5%)
  2. ‘Resilience’ (57.5%)
  3. Being prepared to ‘upskill’ (39.7%)
  4. Being able to change (31.3%)
  5. Striking a ‘balance between work and personal life’ (29%)
  6. And networking skills (16.4%)

The first four skills all relate to the rapid pace of change now facing employers, as discussed on HR News.

This focus on change also cropped up in our recent post on the most wanted trainee skills – which is also relevant to non-trainees; especially those looking to enter a new sector!

How to demonstrate these skills:

As ever, you don’t want to treat these skills as CV or interview buzzwords so much as useful starting points.

Brainstorm examples that demonstrate how you’ve used these skills and what you’ve achieved as a result. Use these examples in your CV where relevant and practise discussing them in an interview scenario.

‘Relevant’ means you’re also tying your examples back to the skills and attributes required by each individual employer. I.e. you’re carefully reading individual job advertisements and specificiations and then tailoring your approach to match.

An interesting note on skill number three…

You’ll see that being prepared to upskill came in third place and this was discussed further in the HR News piece…

  • It suggests that 89.3% of employers are taking a ‘proactive approach’ to employee skills development for a variety of positive reasons. All sounds fantastic, yet this response is not supported by other research conducted on employees themselves.
  • In reality, only around 46% of professionals believe they are receiving adequate training. Advice for employees in this position can be found here.
  • Business owners may benefit from conducting some internal reviews to ensure that they’re not overestimating their skills development efforts. After all, this has long been a powerful staff retention tool.


How to showcase your achievements

Whether you’re looking for a job promotion or a brand new role, you need to know how to showcase your achievements to employers…

We’ll focus on targeting recruitment agencies and prospective employers today. However, if you’re reading this from the promotion perspective, simply use the tips to tailor your notes for an upcoming management meeting or appraisal.

Showcasing your achievements throughout your job search: 

The best CVs are those that spotlight your skills and successes – and manage to link these back to the position you’re applying for. Of course, when faced with a blank document, this can be much easier said than done.

Some of the best advice we’ve read on this topic comes from The Balance Careers. They explain how to:

  1. Define your past successes: looking back over previous roles and making sure you know ‘what success looked like in each position.’
  2. List your achievements: considering those moments in which you’ve excelled in your role and noting specific examples.
  3. Quantify your performance: using numbers to illustrate your achievements.
  4. Highlight any awards: as it sounds; we’ll come back to this shortly!
  5. Weave your findings into your CV and cover letter: suggesting powerful keywords, and how and where to reference your successes.

They even share some examples of their tips in action on a CV, cover letter and during an interview.

Please note: the above article comes from an American website, so watch that you don’t let any American-English slip into your CV. This can frustrate prospective employers!

Some extra tips for the list…

  • Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, get in the habit of following items 1-4.  It’s so much easier to recall your achievements when they’re fresh. Keep a dedicated list, so you’ll be able to select the most relevant examples for each job application.
  • Don’t worry if you’ve not been nominated for any awards! There are other ways to show recognition. Perhaps you’ve received praise from a boss or colleague, a promotion, or some form of prize/incentive for your work. Note these examples too.
  • Remember, the UK CV is ideally only around 2 pages long. It may be a single page for those with less work experience, or a 3-page document for more experienced professionals. However, there’s no reason you can’t get a bit creative and incorporate further details into a separate document to submit to your interviewer. Keep this snappy, using bullet points and graphics.
  • Remember, employers want to know how you can help them. Always draw your examples back to your company research. There’s more about this here.

Further reading:



Interview etiquette: expert tips!

How would you rate your interview etiquette? This post contains must-read advice for anyone who has not been interviewed for some time, those who keep being interviewed but are struggling to find a job, and even those who are due to be interviewing someone soon!

Interview etiquette: the rules of engagement

There are a number of rules of thumb when it comes to your general interview approach. Our first source clearly covers the basics:

  • Doing your interview research – from the job spec, to the company website, its social feeds, and any recent news reports.
  • Preparing to ask your own questions.
  • Letting you know how early you should be.
  • Anticipating the ‘greatest weakness’ question (tip: prepare something other than ‘I’m a perfectionist’, which is the most common response).
  • And watching your body language.

As we say, these are the basics. They are expected of all interview candidates and they signal that you’re taking the process seriously.

You can also use these tips to go beyond the basics and set yourself apart. For instance, using your research findings to prepare a document that demonstrates how your experience and/or skill-set suits the company’s mission or needs.

With many candidates spending just 30 minutes on their interview research, your efforts can really pay off.

Interview etiquette: questions to avoid

We’ve mentioned being prepared to ask your own interview questions. Some questions can naturally arise throughout the conversation and it may feel appropriate to ask these at the time. However, you’ll also usually receive an opportunity to ask any outstanding questions towards the end of the interview.

It’s best to spend a bit of time brainstorming this aspect in advance. What do you really want to know about the company or role?

If your prospective salary is the first thing to come to mind, think again! This was one of the five worst questions to ask at interview.

Instead, it could be wiser to think along the lines of asking the interviewer about their own experiences working for the company, their primary goals, expectations or similar.

Where possible, you can use their answer as a final opportunity to ‘sell yourself’ by drawing a connection between their response and your suitability for the role.

Interview etiquette: what you really want to say

The Independent has shared a number of handy insights for anyone who really wants to brush up on their interview technique.

They called it ‘The Four Most Important Phrases to say in a job interview’. It’s a longer-form piece, which outlines…

  1. The best way to respond when asked ‘tell me more about yourself’.
  2. How to show the interviewer that you know the challenges they’re trying to address and how you can help resolve them.
  3. Clearly expressing your ‘value and relevance’, alongside your greatest accomplishments.
  4. Finding a professional way to ascertain your possible suitability for the role.

The Independent also has a second article (already linked above regarding why not to say you’re a perfectionist) highlighting some other interview etiquette tips. These include not making a dig about your current or previous boss, being honest if you’re interviewing elsewhere and not asking about your holiday entitlement.

Interview etiquette: as an interviewer

Prospective interviewers will also want to check their interview etiquette – and the law! – when considering their upcoming questions. It turns out that 85% of interviewers are regularly asking inappropriate, and off-limits, questions. These include asking about:

  • A candidate’s accent
  • Date of birth
  • Year of graduation
  • Marital or relationship status
  • Plans to start a family

For more interview guidance and support, please call your Recruitment Consultant on 01225 313130. Looking for CV advice? Download our free PDF