4 signs you’ve found (or are) the right candidate!

How to know whether you’ve found (or are!) the right candidate for the job – a post for employers and job-seekers…

Last week, Onrec published a post that we knew we had to feature in our January series. It’s titled: ‘Think you’ve found the right candidate? 4 signs every employer should look for.’

While the piece is clearly targeted at employers and HR Managers, it also offers valuable reading for job-seekers. After all, one of the most vital tools in your job search is the ability to understand what businesses are looking for – allowing you to demonstrate your suitability for the role.

Onrec’s advice is perhaps surprisingly simple. You may think that each of these four signs would be a given when attending interviews. However, it’s the people who can do these things particularly well (and most genuinely!) who really stand out.

The 4 signs that you could be the right candidate are…

1. Exuding enthusiasm:

True enthusiasm can really help you set you apart from your competitors. This includes an enthusiasm about your experience to date, alongside the opportunity to bring your experiences into the role you’re discussing. The best bit? The Onrec article highlights how achievable this is, regardless of your interview nerves.

Tip: before attending any interviews, spend some time considering what you’re most enthusiastic and excited about at this point in your career. What’ve you most enjoyed about your previous work and what are you looking forward to doing next? Make notes and discuss with friends if this helps you to become more comfortable in expressing your positivity.

2.  You’ve swotted up:

You need to show that you’ve swotted up on each business you’re interviewing for. This isn’t just about proving you understand the company and its purpose, yet also showing you’re proactive and prepared.

Tip: even if it’s a last-minute interview request, you can have a good look at the company website. Keep a close watch for any mentions of company goals, aims, working ethos or similar. Got longer to prepare? Visit social media feeds, research news items about the company, industry trends and more. This tip also ties into the ‘Proactivity’ point in this post.

3. Seeing flaws as growth opportunities

The most well-rounded candidates can take an honest look at themselves and see how their downfalls can be used as areas of improvement. It helps if you can give real-life examples of times you’ve turned a flaw or failure into a learning and development opportunity.

Tip: try to brainstorm something other than perfectionism (the most popular weakness that’s become something of an interview cliche!). Think of a challenge you’ve overcome, which trait this represented, and how you overcame it and/or the steps you’re currently taking to improve. Again, express enthusiasm for your personal development rather than shame for being human in the first place!

4. Communicating well

Onrec’s final point also ties in well with the ‘Empathy’ trait in this article. You want to communicate clearly and positively with every person you encounter throughout your recruitment process.

This goes beyond your interview conversations and extends into any emails, calls and/or texts you exchange. Not to mention those non-verbal communications with anyone you pass in the interview building.

Tip: always give yourself space to re-read any written comms before firing them off to a prospective employer. You can also stand out by sending interview thank you notes – here’s some advice on how to do this if you’re working with a recruitment agency.

Catch up with the rest of our January series so far…

Don’t forget to keep popping back to our News page to see the latest instalments. You can also connect with us via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn



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



The year of the pay rise!

How and when to ask for a pay rise this year…

If you’ve read any of our January posts so far, you’ll know that we’re dedicating this month to positive and supportive features to help you achieve your career plans.

You can catch up with our previous posts here:

  1. Our introduction to the series and why it’s so necessary
  2. The employee traits that could speed up your job search success
  3. Good news for beating the New Year blues and SAD

If achieving a pay rise is top of your new year plans, then this feature is for you!

Today’s story comes from Adzuna; as published by HR News. Adzuna has shared a four-step plan to help increase your chance of increasing your salary this year!

We’ll also share some tips from other experts on this subject.

Why January could be the best time to ask for a pay rise

The article states that the average 2019 salary actually reached its peak last January. Adzuna reports that salaries almost reached an average of £35,000 per annum during that period and for the only point that year.

For this reason, they suggest that this could be the month for you to get the process started. We’ll return to this topic in one of their steps below.

The four-step plan includes…

  1. Evaluating your performance
  2. Standing out from the crowd
  3. Careful timing
  4. Preparing for a ‘no’

Evaluating your performance:

  • Take the time to evaluate your achievements against your targets and responsibilities.
  • Select examples that clearly demonstrate business benefits.
  • Consider how your examples show that you’ve gone beyond your current role and have truly earned the possibility of a pay increase.

Standing out from the crowd:

  • Essentially, this involves finding ways to accept as many internal opportunities as you can – from training to projects – to show that you are more positive and proactive than your colleagues.
  • Also ensure to highlight your current soft skills and those you’re working on. Even if you’re not actively job searching, you can refer back to our post on these essential skills.

Careful timing:

  • Don’t think you have to wait for your next appraisal to open your salary conversations. Remember, January could be a prime time for such discussions.
  • However, you do want to make sure you’re ready to make a strong case. Aim to follow all of the above advice as thoroughly as you can before speaking to your manager or boss.

Preparing for a ‘no:’

  • As the article suggests, it’s vital to mentally prepare for your request to be rejected. And it doesn’t mean it’s personal if it is! The company may not be in the position to make any increases at this time, may have another date in mind, or may prefer to wait until they can offer pay rises to all team members.
  • Of course, there’s also the chance that your case isn’t quite strong enough right now. Seek out your manager or employer’s feedback.
  • You can always ask when an increase could be more realistic and/or whether there are any alternative rewards that could be negotiated at this time.

Some extra tips…

  • When considering your timing, don’t forget to review your situation so far. Are you new to the company and/or have you already received a pay rise within the past 12 months? One BBC expert recommends holding off if so.
  • Sometimes the biggest pay rises come from new employers. Resolution Foundation has found that employees who remained with their employer (in 2018) could predict a pay rise of ‘0.6% a year after inflation’. Conversely, those who make a job change can expect a typical rise of 4.5% in their first year following the switch – which is seven times the amount.
  • Focus on your productivity and inspire and encourage your colleagues to do the same. Resolution Foundation also found that it’s the times when Britain is performing productively that we receive the greatest pay rises!

Don’t forget to keep an eye on our jobs page so you can benchmark your salary against the latest openings. Regularly reading job descriptions can also help you better understand the skills and expertise that you’ll need to take you to that next salary level!



Beating the New Year blues & SAD

Essential advice for anyone who suffers from the New Year Blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD)…

The first weeks after the Christmas break can be a challenge for many employees. Yet certain groups are more likely to suffer at this time of year; especially those affected by SAD.

Wondering how this fits into our positive January focus? There’s good news within!

How do you know if you have SAD?

According to the NHS website, SAD can encompass:

  • Persistent low mood
  • Loss of pleasure/interest in normal everyday activities
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • Lethargy (lacking in energy) and daytime sleepiness
  • Sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • Craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

These symptoms can become severe and anyone struggling to cope is expressly advised to contact their GP.

Why this time of year can be especially hard:

As Personnel Today describes, there are many triggers that can make January a tricky month.

Gloomy days, financial worries, train delays and fare increases, alongside trying to get back into your work, and the pressure to get fit are all featured.

The good news:

Your solution to beating the January Blues and SAD doesn’t have to be complicated. This can include:

  • Making sure to get out in the daylight each day
  • Using SAD lamps in dark offices
  • Taking regular and ‘real’ downtime
  • Making efforts to reduce your stress levels
  • Consuming a balanced diet and having healthy snacks on hand at work
  • Reconnecting with friends and colleagues

Think it takes a more dramatic wellness plan to beat those New Year blues?

You might want to go easier on yourself. GP Margaret McCartney reminds that “achieving a healthy lifestyle should not be a complicated consumerist puzzle involving expensive memberships, diet books and deference to gurus”. Conversely, “some space, a pair of trainers and a bit of time may be all you need. If you are neglecting your family or work because of the need to do it, that doesn’t sound like wellbeing”.

All in all, the advice suggests that it’s the simple steps that can really help you feel better this January – and all the more ready to launch into your 2020 career plans! 

Let yours begin with a visit to our jobs page.



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.



A year of big change & a positive start!

2020 looks set to be a year of big change for employees and businesses.

We’re dedicating the next month to a number of positive news posts to help inspire your 2020 career plans. We’ll explore everything from personality traits to coping with SAD, pay rises, career changes, and the value of career plans themselves.

Before the series officially launches tomorrow, we’re going to focus on why such a focus is necessary…

Big change is ahead!

The latest findings suggest that:

  • Around 1/2 of British employees plan to change jobs this year.
  • This could come at a cost of approximately £195 to businesses each day.
  • In addition, businesses are already struggling to recruit with unemployment levels remaining exceptionally low.

As for the customer services industry…

  • Almost 40% of customer service professionals intend to find a new role.
  • January is considered the worst month of the year for this group’s happiness levels.
  • As a result, 5% of respondents will leave their customer service job this month alone. This figure may not sound vast, yet could cost UK businesses £201,757,500 in January!

Employers are already worried:

  • Only last month 2/5 of business leaders reported a ‘constant battle’ with staff retention.
  • Almost 1/2 of HR professionals expect to lose 10% of their team during any business year.
  • What’s more, 14% of the nation’s new recruits leave their roles within their first 30 days, and 39% do so within the first six months.

Let’s turn to some positives…

If more professionals make these job moves as planned, more candidates will be available for existing and new job opportunities. This could help to shake up the skills shortage the UK has experienced over recent years.

What’s more, the research data also presents some additional (and valuable!) insights.

  • The study that said 1/2 of British people will change jobs this year also identified the number one employee retention tool – working for a company with a purpose. Or ‘the positive reason the organisation exists, what drives it forward and what it stands for.’
  • A separate study found that 90% of employees working for businesses with ‘clearly defined and motivational purposes’ feel engaged at work. That’s 58% more employee engagement than companies that don’t have clear and positive purposes!
  • On the customer services side, it’s found that employee retention levels can be enhanced through ‘regular and timely feedback, non-financial rewards, and healthcare and flexitime.’ Pay rates also hold influence for 53% of these respondents.

If you’re reading this as a current or prospective job-seeker…

  • This sort of research data has multiple benefits for your job search. Firstly, it’s helpful to know what other employees prioritise as it can help you understand and clarify your own goals.
  • You may also feel it’s time for you to seek out a company with a greater purpose, or you may be looking to work with more likeminded people, increase your salary, and/or seek experience in a new sector. There are no rights and wrongs – these are your career goals!
  • In addition, knowing that application numbers may increase can you help you focus your efforts on those roles you are most interested in.
  • Visit our jobs page to apply for the latest opportunities. You can also upload your CV here.

If you’re reading this as an employer or manager…

  • You can also use this data to your advantage. Even if you know your business serves a positive purpose, you need to find ways to clearly communicate this to your team (and any customers or clients you serve).
  • It’s helpful to review your staff retention levels and strategies as a whole. Ever high or increasing employee turnover levels often indicate something is going wrong – whether that’s down to an unhappy working environment, absent staff retention strategy, or even recruiting the wrong people in the first place.
  • Even businesses used to steady staffing levels will likely see an increase in employee departures if the above stats ring true. This knowledge can help you get prepared and proactive in your recruitment plans.
  • Be sure to find a trusted recruitment partner to support you. For further advice, please call the office on 01225 313130.

We hope you all enjoy this month’s features and it helps you start your own year of big changes!