Making The Most of a Candidate-Short Market.

I have a milestone birthday tomorrow. A big one. The sort that really makes you reflect, and feels like the culmination of years of counting down to it.

The gravity of this milestone was heightened by a new search we won and commenced last week – a fantastic MD role for an eCommerce fashion business, the remit to take over from the founder who wanted to step back to enjoy the fruits of her labours (and who can blame her)….a founder that was born the same year I graduated from University.

These events cause us to look at decisions taken as well as the choices yet to present themselves. Careers form one of the greatest of such decisions. I had 15yrs of a career, working for other people, working to promises that seldom materialised. 

My last huge career decision was taken in the run up to my last milestone birthday after months of broken promises, I started a 12-month process to plan, research and set up my own business. 10 years on, it’s been the best career decision I made, even if the path to launching was a little rocky(!).

After the most unusual 2 years any of us has ever faced, millions are facing their own career decisions at present, both those looking at their own careers, and those looking at their own teams.

We face a candidate-short/candidate-driven market. With more people in work that ever before, and more job vacancies than genuine job-seekers, recruitment is causing headaches from the shop-floor to the boardroom. 

That brings huge challenge to employers to find the talent they need; the talent their businesses need (read more on that here)…..but it’s also a challenge of those looking to make a move in their own careers.

We have only just come through a period of great tumultuousness; 2 years that saw plummeting economic contraction, fears of 9m people out of work, perennial lockdowns & restrictions and unending uncertainty, we have now sprung into a country of full employment, recruitment being cited as the biggest risk for business growth and dramatically reshuffling working environments with a side-order of high inflation and increasing living costs…..little surprise that the recent global Microsoft survey showed us that over 40% of employees are considering moving jobs.

“Give me 6hrs to chop down a tree, I’ll spend the first 4 sharpening my axe”

Abraham Lincoln

True Lincoln quote or not, insufficient consideration to major decisions is often fatal in career advancement; “Take time for such things; great haste makes great waste” – Benjamin Franklin.

Certainty is the first of the six core human needs (the others being Variety, Significance, Connection, Growth & Contribution). All are critical when looking for a new career opportunity, but certainty is critical when beginning the process…. The need for safety, stability, security, comfort, order, predictability, control and consistency.

Those elements are threatened when entering the job market and often lead to increase anxiety and stress, in turn leading to a rushed decision in the quest to regain those elements.

37% of professionals who leave an employed tenure of 5 years or more leave their subsequent job within 18 months, compared to an overall average of just 12%. The biggest cause of that 3x likelihood is the lack of full analysis of the key drivers to make such a move from a longer term, ‘comfort-zone’ employer, and the recognition that it is the employer and employer’s culture that is the key ‘fit’ challenge, more than the job in isolation.

That fit always starts with values. If the company’s values are not in the briefing document or openly visible on their website, ask for them. They will provide the first step on understanding your fit with the business’s guiding principles their collective fundamental beliefs. Do you share those values? Question yourself in what areas you want to learn, develop, grow and contribute. Do those value support that.

There are then 3 key areas to ensure true cultural fit; the 3 Ps:

  • Purpose
  • People
  • Pace


Purpose is more than passion. Arguably more important than passion. Purpose is more than just your career, it reaches relationships, love, family, finance, fun, ..and beyond. It is what gives you energy and drive. It focuses you on where you want to go, what do you want from your career, what are the paths to get there – making sure your energy is taking you in the right direction, taking control of your career, being part of a team to get you there ….the alignment of your purpose with a prospective employer’s is important. 

Mark Zuckerberg defines purpose as “Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness…But it’s not enough to have purpose yourself. You have to create a sense of purpose for others.”

Ensuring a fit in your purpose and the business’s purpose (and values), provides a long-term fit.


If you want to improve, progress, develop at something, you have to surround yourself with people that do that thing better than you do.

Our biggest learnings are from those who do what we do, but better. In business, in leadership, in sport, in everything. We can all pinpoint numerous people from our careers who have influenced, coached, imparted their knowledge, even if only by osmosis.

With your career move, are those people present? Do they have the skills and experience to help you? Do those leaders support your ambitions and objectives? Provide you with the right opportunities? Does the business invest in it’s people? 

Even if the answer is no, will they facilitate you finding these people as part of your role?


Back to those core human needs. Control is present through many of them, it is never more important than with your own career. You need to do your bit first, define your goals, define your objectives – and as part of that, define the timescales to reach them, and for each milestone on the journey.

Once you know what you want to achieve, and in what timeframe, will this business help you? Will they be able to help you accelerate it? Do you want the excitement and exponential learning curve of a small entrepreneurial business, or the more considered growth of a large corporate. Do you want a clear path with defined deliverables or do you want the unpredictability and ultimate meritocratic rewards of a high-growth SME?

Do you want to accelerate your career? Are you prepared to be the driving force behind that pace?

Elon Musk – one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs and with a $300bn fortune, the richest person in history by some margin. He also has 6 children and reached the milestone birthday I reach tomorrow only 6 months ago!  He categorises his success with the mantra:

“Stop being patient and start asking yourself, how do I accomplish my 10 year plan in 6 months? 

Elon Musk

It utilises Parkinson Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

Back at University, how many of us with a 2-week assignment only completed it the night before it was due? We set our deadline according to those time constraints.

Give yourself 24 hours to do that assignment, you’ll do it in 24 hours. Give yourself 6 months to deliver your 10 year plan…. well, as Elon says: 

“You will likely fail but you will be a lot further ahead of the person who simply accepted it was going to take 10 years.” 

Elon Musk

Even Elon will admit he regularly misses targets and deadlines, but by reaching for these goals, you get closer to your final destination than you would have done.

Surround yourself with people that will help and support you to reach those goals, at the pace you desire.

Back to me. As I approached that last milestone birthday, I realised I wanted more. My then employer was not delivering any of the 3 Ps. My purpose was misaligned with their values. The people were no longer developing me in the areas I wanted. Most importantly, the pace I craved to fulfil my purpose was glacial compared to where I wanted it, and worse still, was frequently being stalled. Fate helped me accelerate that pace, but momentum has been easy to maintain.

I was sent the below by a client at the time; he’s been my best client ever since.

PS – Purpose does not only dictate career. In an unashamed refusal to accept that 50 is old, I’m marking the occasion by planning a 1,000 mile bike ride from Wilmslow to Barcelona for charity. Pace? Aiming for less than 7 days.

Fittingly for the modern generation, it will be documented via Instagram.

The War For Talent Goes Cultural


Three weeks in and already it’s the year of [alleged] illicit parties and the Chinese ‘James Bond’ (who turned out to be a 58-yr old female solicitor).

It’s also the start of the most candidate-driven market place I’ve seen in 25 years, with more people working than ever and more job vacancies than job seekers. Staggering when you consider it is less than 18 months since some ‘analysts’ were predicting unemployment figures of 9m.

Employers are having to battle with more competition than ever before to attract and recruit the best talent. The best candidates in the market are in high demand, most having multiple opportunities, meaning unless you have a great employment proposition, you are going to lose out.

The most affected are employers with ‘open jobs’ targeting solely ‘open candidates’ – those roles being advertised by internal recruitment teams or fulfilled by external database-led recruiters, both only able to attract those people actively job-seeking. Research suggests this only makes up 15-18% of those people open to a new career opportunity, missing out on up to 85% of the talent available – furthermore, in a candidate-driven market, the best talent almost never needs to actively look for a new role.

The Search industry combats that – we headhunt, typically targeting passive talent, those execs and rising stars that have not yet even thought about their next move, let alone done anything about it. If classic database recruiters can hit 15% of the market, we can reach 100%….and it means you get to look for the talent you want, rather than hoping they jlook for you.

But businesses still have to refresh their proposition as an employer of choice, and crucially perfect how that proposition is presented; the un-baited hook is unlikely to get the first bite.

The culture of your business is without question a bigger pull than ever before. The ‘Gordon Gecko’/Jordan Belfort 1980s boiler room mentality has well passed, but it hasn’t been replaced with the overtly-passive/’woke’ environment many predicted. Instead the optimum cultures mirror the recruitment process – all centring around mutual, 2-way benefit between employer and employee.

Leadership buzz words such as authentic, open, honest might be all the rage, but they boil down to the same thing – respect and common sense. Employees expect and want their employers to be successful, to be profitable; but they expect and want their employees to give them a seat on that journey. 

Culture is always subjective. The best culture for one person, may not be the optimum culture for the next. LinkedIn have just released their ‘2022 Global Talent Trends’ report, giving huge insight into the employee/employer relationship as we begin to consider the post-pandemic world. It shows how business cultures are evolving, placing employees front and central, ensuring the best chance of attracting, retaining and development prime talent.

The three key areas highlighted were:

  • Flexibility
  • Wellbeing
  • Reshuffling

Flexibility – ‘One Size Fits All’ is unlikely to fit anyone

Employees now crave flexibility in where, when and how they work. The smarter businesses are using a ‘carrot not stick’ approach to repopulating their office buildings whilst ensuring a truly equitable experience for all employees irrespective of where/when/how they work. A client of mine has invested £2m on their office building, ensuring both a physically attractive workspace, but also an environment that provides total safety and comfort regardless of environmental/pandemic concerns.

If intangible benefits aren’t strong enough, the report highlights a 35% increase in engagement for jobs offering flexibility; our own survey showing that over 60% of employees would consider moving jobs to retain flexible working.

Wellbeing – Mindful engagement over midnight oil

Burnout might have been a badge of honour in the red braces/red Porsche bonus-rich 1980s, but fostering a culture the prioritises Mental, Physical and Emotional wellbeing is more attractive to targeted talent than the premium offering of a company car list or the latest efficiency-focused technology. Small initiatives from enforced time away from a screen, fresh environments & healthy food offerings right through to facilitated and encouraged wellbeing sessions, meditation, fitness initiatives are all have a disproportionately positive effect on employee health, and therefore the working environment.

28% of Gen-X value wellbeing investment…66% of Gen-Z do.  There is your future.

Reshuffling – Better Life = Better Work = Better Life

The pandemic has given everyone the opportunity to question what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. Microsoft’s 2021 survey showed over 40% of global workers were considering leaving their current role to seek an environment where they felt more valued.

From businesses adopting a social conscience to employees focused not on work/life balance, but work/life blend….the desire to maximise both. Employers creating a culture of collaboration and engagement, both internally and externally, are quickly seeing the benefit in the quality of shortlists for positions of any level.

The full report is available HERE.

The World Covid Left Behind

Recruitment Trends in 2021

Three decades* & four recessions. Terrible movie title, but that is my career in recruitment. (*almost)

…but the last 2 years have seen a recruitment sector like no other. We went from near full employment in Q4 2019, to over 11 million unemployed or furloughed in Q2 2020. Buoyant recruitment sector to no recruitment sector.

Fears of 9 million unemployed were thankfully very wide of the mark, thanks Rishi, but millions of people suddenly found themselves with job uncertainty, or even worse.

Across the world it was even worse, without such a supportive Furlough scheme, the US spiralled from 3.8% unemployment in Jan 2020 to 15% just 4 months later. The UK went from a similarly low 3.9% to only a 5.2% peak over the same timescale (The EU peaking at 8.6%).

Bounce Back

But my word has it bounced back. We may still be at 4.2%, 0.3%-points higher than pre-pandemic, but as a country, we are currently sitting with more job vacancies than people looking for a job and with nearly 33 million people in work; just 300,000 less than the all-time high of Jan 2020.

The rest of the work has fared similarly. The US is down to 4.6% unemployment, the EU at 7.4%.

And with all countries seeing numbers improve, talent acquisition is getting harder. Truck driver shortages across the UK, the EU and the US made the headlines first, but every area, every sector, every job junction is feeling the squeeze.

Executive Search

Exec and the C-Suite hasn’t escaped either. With a fairly torrid 18 months keeping business afloat/performing/solvent, some execs had delayed retirement plans, others have now accelerated retirement/slowdown plans, others are realising LTIPs/Equity as the take their foot off the gas. Add in a move to strengthen board numbers as well cruelly as board quality, as predicted here (Article: Boardroom Clearouts – Investors become Dons) – a whole category of business leaders who simply didn’t lead well during the pandemic and will be replaced, will further exacerbate demand problems, the Executive recruitment market is seeing its own share of challenges. 


A key driver behind the increasing difficulty in procuring key talent is a mismatch in supply & demand. We may have just over a million real jobseekers and just over a million jobs available, but it doesn’t always balance out.

For a start, some employers are still acting as if we are in the darker days of the pandemic, expecting too much for too little to entice jobseekers. Others are missing the pull of flexible/hybrid working. Some individuals are also more fearful of returning to work in still uncertain societal and economic times. For others the jobs available are simply just not attractive enough to risk moving; or leaving the safety net of social protection/social security.

At executive/leaderships grades the skills sought are again often mismatched with those on offer. Demonstrable crisis management and/or driving post-pandemic growth along with leading a team cohesion/cultural repurposing/communication are highly sought skills, but those with that experience are often not those wanting to make a move, or wanting to repeat the experience. Smart businesses are placing golden handcuffs around the best key leaders….any exec out on the open market, sat on a recruiter’s proactive database, is too often not handcuffed for a reason.

Claw back to stability?

We are getting back to normal; perhaps a ‘new normal’, but for business at least it looks like a welcome, familiar normal.

But the trends we have seen during, and learned from the last 18 months are likely here to stay. 

“Great Attrition Vs Great Attraction”

Forbes reported over 40% of employees were at least ‘somewhat likely’ to leave their employers in the 3-to-6 months. They highlighted leisure and hospitality as being the most at risk, but no sector avoided it – even education, the sector reporting the least likelihood of losing staff, still had over 25% ‘somewhat likely’ to leave.

With 53% of employers reporting greater voluntary staff turnover and 64% expecting it to get worse in 2022, employers have a stark choice whether to accept Great Attrition or employ measures of Great Attraction…..especially as Forbes report that 36% of those voluntarily leaving employment did so without a job lined-up to go to. 

Flexible/Hybrid Working

Every survey conducted shows that the vast majority of people who are able to work flexibly, want to work flexibly. Industry figures show: 

  • 57% job offer turn-down rate for position without flexible/hybrid working
  • 85% of people would like some form of flexible/hybrid working
  • 68% of business recognising lack of flexible/hybrid working makes recruitment harder
  • 63% of business recognising they WILL lose staff if they don’t offer flexible/hybrid working
  • 90% of CEOs recognise the importance of employment innovation
  • Our own survey showed 60% of people would move job just to retain flexible/hybrid working (HERE)

Large global businesses have [been forced to] offer formal flexible working structures Apple’s CEO Tim Cook wrote to all employees instructing them to return to the office….it took just 2 days for 1,000s of Apple employees to collaborate and write an open letter back to him requesting flexibility (that letter can be found at the bottom of this article).

Conversely Facebook & Google came straight out and offered flexible working and saw a glut of job applications in response.


Upward salary pressure has reversed partial stagnation over the last few years in executive recruitment, largely as bonus heavy/incentive-biased packages have become less attractive in a quest for greater long term stability.


Buzz word of the last 10 years perhaps, but that makes it no less relevant now. The environment and personality within a business has never been more key when attracting talent. Flexible working becomes a major component in that, but also its greatest challenge. Defining & ensuring a culture is a challenge when you seldom have more than 50% of the team present….and forced/false initiatives are often fruitless, and can become counterproductive.

‘Me’ to ‘We’

A notable development, and extension of internal culture as above, is the shift of power within businesses from profit to mutual prosperity; and that mutuality, the ‘we’, is no longer just within the business, but what the business is doing for the wider societal environment. From diversity, sustainability, societal responsibility and accountability, [prospective] employees are starting to ask, ‘Who are we’, ‘Why are we doing this’, ‘What are we doing it for’, ‘How can we do it better for everyone’. Businesses with a social responsibility are increasingly attractive, way beyond CSR. 


From having the right people just in the wrong roles, through to having truly toxic leaders, the pandemic has been an opportunity to fully review organisations charts, engage in constructive 360 reviews and understand employee career objectives with the aim of repurposing a business’s human structure to become more fit for its modern purpose and more adept at responding to future developments.

Increased Demand

As business emerges from the pandemic, the race to get greater talent (numbers and quality) has never been greater, the best candidates are facing numerous job opportunities, but the best have no reason to leave an employer that treats and rewards them well to enter a higher stress/higher demand/unknown environment.

Democratising Processes

Video interviews have brought a wide raft of new opportunities, and challenges. The ability to broaden the selection criteria and briefly meet candidates who would be otherwise fringe options on paper. It also brings the opportunity to counsel the opinion of a far greater number of line managers & peers within the hiring business, and for candidates to meet & engage with those same increased number of people.

It also levels the playing field for all candidates. Everyone has the same 15-inch stage on which to perform, arguably favouring the less gregarious.


Testing someone’s commitment and genuine interest in the role being headhunted for used to be comparatively easily. A couple of cute questions to ascertain true motivation coupled with their willingness to travel and take time away to attend interviews was a near perfect barometer– but with Covid came Zoom. Scheduling hours of travel, often with significant cost, has been swapped with an hour of ‘do not disturb’ in your diary as your diarised video call took on a slightly more clandestine nature. Understanding and clarifying true interest and motivation to move role is now a vital component to factor in, especially in an environment where exec candidates will have plenty of suitors.


May sound very 1980’s Wall Street, but a significant number of business leaders have faced intense stress and change of pace in the last 18 months against a backdrop of seeing every facet of work and home life upended. Many are exhausted, no longer want to be part of the rat-race. The exodus of execs leaving the South-East to head North in search of a calmer life has been almost worthy of William the Conqueror’s harrying exploits.

Away from the Exec grades, many employees are tired and even verging on PTSD/grief for their lives over the last 18 months. They crave greater social interaction, interpersonal connection and recognition in the workplace.

Notice Periods

A final nod to the post-acceptance process. Notice periods are being upheld. With the realisation that replacement is more challenging, early release is far harder to secure. An average of under 50% of notice periods being served has given way to over 75% being fully enforced, including 12 month notice periods. 

Covid changed the world, the negatives are well documented and would have been beyond comprehension just 2 years ago, but those changes also bring opportunity to develop leadership, perspective, workplace culture, creativity, humility and humanity. Once again reacting to the world around us; this time for a positive outcome.

60% would move job to keep ‘Working From Home’

Between 2010 and 2020, the number of people working from home at least 50% of the week rose by just 0.2% per year, peaking at under 5%.

That became almost 50% overnight on 23rd March 2020 as the first Covid lockdown took effect. 

Media, (Social and Mainstream), was quickly filled with tales of farcical multitasking, home-schooling hysteria, working from bedrooms, Zoom call fatigue and children interrupting high-profile video interviews.

12 months later, sentiment is as different as the we world we currently find ourselves living in.

The average number of speculative CVs we receive each week has increased 4-fold; the two biggest reasons cited being the desire to dramatically reduce their commute (once commuting becomes a thing again), or even more so, those who don’t want to go back to the 9-5 ‘in the office’ life. 

So I put the question out. “Would you move jobs to avoid 5 days/wk in an office?”. The result was surprising. Almost 60% said they would. 45% would move jobs to gain/keep 2 or 3 days per week, 14% would move jobs if it meant 5 days a week from home.

Another 32% wouldn’t consider moving jobs, but would prefer flexibility, with just under 10% being happy with 5 days/week in the office.

So I dug a little deeper. Perhaps more tellingly, those numbers increase by 15-20% for Millennials and Gen-Z, with only 3% of under 30s saying they would be happy with 5 days per week in the office, and over 80% saying flexibility was more important than salary and second only to career prospects/development. Tomorrow’s execs will not be craving their corner office, unless it is at home (read more on that HERE).

But the move to home working has been a win for employers too. Home-workers did 55% more unpaid over-time and were 68% more likely to work after 6pm, especially amongst the higher paid (earning over £75,000/yr)….who interestingly also took longer breaks (often to home-school) and started work later in the day than ‘normal’. The average hours worked per day increased by 1hr 28mins (almost directly offsetting the average saved commuting time of 1hr 22mins). Additionally, across all home-workers, businesses also reported that sick-leave dropped by over 70%

As for the breakdown within those home workers, regional variations did play a part, workers in London & the South-East being most likely to change their working location/flexibility; Scotland and Northern Ireland being the least likely (the North-West being in the bottom quartile).

Those working in Financial Services, Professional Services and IT/Telco were, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most likely to work from home with 69% working from home more than half the time contrasting with just 11% of white-collar workers within food/logistics/retail.

But the long-term adoption of flexible working is far from universal. Surprisingly, Apple, Google and even Zoom have been some of the first of the large global brands to announce that it’s employees must return to their offices for at least the bulk of the working week – surprising as those are the three of the businesses that have arguably most benefitted and facilitated the remote working shift.

Apple CEO Tim Cook emailed his entire workforce on Jun 2 requesting they all return to the office on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from September, with teams that need to collaborate further being asked to return 5 days per week. “For all that we’ve been able to achieve while many of us have been separated, the truth is that there has been something essential missing from this past year: each other” his message to his wider team, with the added message that all employees can have an additional (manager approved) 2 weeks per year working from home to “be closer to family and loved ones, find a change of scenery, manage unexpected travel, or a different reason all your own”.

It took just 2 days for Apple employees to write an open letter to their leader, requesting “a flexible approach where those who want to work remote can do so”. The letter strikes a direct tone:

We would like to take the opportunity to communicate a growing concern among our colleagues. That Apple’s remote/location-flexible work policy, and the communication around it, have already forced some of our colleagues to quit. Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple.”

The full letter, pasted below, ends “This is not a petition, though it may resemble one. This is a plea: let’s work together to truly welcome everyone forward.” Notable that tomorrow’s execs seek a collaborative voice and earned respect, rather the militant/unionised threat seen by their forebears in the 70s.

Facebook conversely have announced that ‘Remote working is the future’, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg telling all employees they are able to work from home, pending manager approval. He also offers the option to employees to move working location for personal reasons, US employees able to apply to relocate to Canada; European employees to the UK. Those who do return to the primary office will still be able to work from home for up to 50% of the time… 

Notably, Facebook have not had the employee revolt seen by Apple (or Google, which saw CEO Sundar Pichai to reverse his stricter 2020 directive for an office-centric return in favour of more relaxed approach which will see 20% work from home and 20% flex their location). They have seen an increase is job applications though.

Hybrid working is this month’s buzz word….which just means flexible working, some days in the office/some days out of the office – but as employers are quickly prophesying, the logistics behind facilitating such a move are more complicated. As one client commented “with free choice, everyone will just want Friday out of the office”. Another quipping “I’m not running a 200 person office of qualified professionals via a pub-style shift/rota”. Even the most ardent Chief People Officers I know speak of a ‘cultural hand-grenade’ that would ensue by trying to bring the cultures of remote and in-person working together.

But a flexed solution will need to be found if 90% of people want a lither working solution; especially if 60% of people would go as far as to move jobs to (re)gain flexible or home working.

…and the glacial return to some form of office life has only served to fuel that sentiment. I get daily tales of contacts that travel for an hour or two for a short 30min meeting, only to travel an hour or two back. 10yrs ago that was de rigueur. Now it’s enough to cause a revolt.

It’s also enough to gain Government attention with last week’s admission by Michael Gove that the Cabinet Office was considering giving millions of workers a default right to work at home, requiring company bosses to provide good reason why office attendance was required.

Work culture has leapt forward 10-20yrs and employees have had a taste of that future and the benefits it brings. 

A recent YouGov survey showed that 90% of business leaders agreed that employment innovation was critical today, ….but only 21% felt they had the expertise, resources and commitment to innovate!

Apple Employee’s Letter:

Working from Home? Here’s how to make the most of it…(and still get more work done)

“Let’s meet for lunch on Friday, I’m <air quote fingers> ‘Working From Home’ <air quote fingers> “

Until March 2020, that was how many people saw Remote Working. Then,….COVID.

As the guidelines clamped down again, more of us are resigned to Home-Working/Roam-Working.

So how do you balance productivity with health and well-being when you’re working from home, rather than at the office?

WFH (pt.1) was seen as a bit of a novelty, coupled with crisis. People adapted, sat at kitchen tables, coped. But WFH (pt.2) looks here for the long haul. Workplaces are again closing, but with plans for months, rather than week by week, sending people into the relative isolation of their home office. Or kitchen. 

I’ve worked from home for the most of the past 10 years. Done right, it works brilliantly. But done wrong, it’s tough. 

I first tried it 15yrs ago, it hurt both my mental well-being AND my productivity. But now, I’ve nailed it. How? Read on…

I’ll be honest: The first time I found myself working from home, in my early-30s, I had a tough time. I felt disconnected, and so I craved connection which led to distraction. I struggled with finding a schedule that worked and fitted with the ‘non-commute’ lifestyle.

5 years later, I was in a different place. I’ve been very focused on staying connected to the outside world, balancing my productivity with what’s good for my mental health….and taking advantage of the flexibility remote working affords.

Its more challenging for everyone now; the ability to change venue and work out of a coffee shop for a few hours has gone from being hindered by wearing a mask, and inhibited with Covid-fear, social distancing rules to now being outlawed by fresh lockdown rules. The freedom to use shared workspaces to benefit my Myers Briggs ENFP (and fuel the high-E within it) has been curtailed. But it is possible, partly through the use of video media, but also because I already have some basic habits in place that ensure remote and home-based work works and doesn’t compromise my well-being.

Forget the 8hr day 

Working in an office is regimented with set hours. Finishing before 5.30/6.00 is ‘leaving early’, arriving after 8.30 is ‘being in late’; side-looks and hidden comments are often abound for arrivals/departures inside of those times. Yet much of the defined workday is made up of meetings where you are mostly listening, or providing/receiving analysis (a.k.a justifying what you have been doing). 

Add in the coffee machine chat, random interruptions, spontaneous collaboration, people ‘having a quick word’, or ‘picking your brains’ and you’ll soon work out that the working day is little more than ‘time in the office’, and in reality around half of an actual “working day”. Or less.

My workdays are uninterrupted unless I choose to have them interrupted; When I need, I can easily get more done in 4 hours straight than I’d accomplish in 10 hours in an open office….but when I work for that 4 hrs straight, I actually work for 4 hrs straight. By the time I’ve finished, I’m often exhausted. It shows how little real focus occurs in a modern office, and is the biggest reason most employers have seen productivity level upheld, if not exceeded during the last 6 months.

Don’t clock watch. Don’t run to time, or work until a set time. Work until that particular task(s) is/are completed, then break. Just 5 mins or a 60min workout; a moment of fresh air. Take the dog for a walk. Make a coffee and sit in a different room. Go for a run. Ride your bike. Switch off in whatever way works for you.
….then finish the day when all tasks are completed…or when enough are completed.  

Alone, not lonely 

Elephant in the room. Working at home can be lonely. Sitting in your home office/kitchen/bedroom, with no one else in the building is great for productivity, but bad for mental health. On days when I don’t have many business/video calls, I try to either get out, work in a coffee shop during normal times, to get some human interaction, do a bit of exercise, walk the dog, or even just call a friend/family member, especially early in the mid-afternoon just when productivity starts to flag. 

Choose three things a day

When you aren’t using outdated/societally defined office hours to decide when work starts and ends, you need some other structure that lets you know when you’ve done a day’s work. 

I’ll often start my day, no matter how early, by spending 30secs listing just three top priorities for the day. I’m old school – I’ll use post-it notes on my desk/screen, a visible tool to remove them once each task is completed. I’ll alternatively share them with my research team so I have a sense of accountability.


If you’re going to reap the benefits of letting go of the eight-hour day, you need a different way of managing time and ensuring you’re working at a sensible pace.

Your “three things” above are part of that system, but it is also helpful to set up some other structures to track where time goes. Mike Vardy, author of the book Productivityist uses the term “time theming” – the idea being you dedicate certain times (or days) to specific tasks or types of tasks. It enables easy scheduling of calls and meetings, knowing (and being known for) holding those meetings etc on certain days. 

There are time tracker apps available – I personally find they cause more time loss and distraction than they fix, but I know some contacts who struggle with a lack of strict structure do benefit from their use to optimally mix productivity and your sanity.

Learn your natural energy cycles

When you’re working in an office, you show up at a prescribed time, work a prescribed day and leave at a prescribed hour. You do this irrespective of whether you are wired up and fuelled with maximum energy & motivation….or shattered, burned out and suffering from advanced CBA.

A huge productivity win form working from home is the ability to follow natural energy cycles. Give 100% when you feel 100%….. take a break when you’re not on it.

We’ve all seen colleagues (and seen in ourselves) work really hard at doing nothing when they (we) are just not on it….and waste hours or even a full day. 

When I first started working from home, I’d panic when I hit a productivity slump, worried that being busy was all that was important (as poor managers had told me repeatedly for years earlier in my career). Accepting slumps, productivity downturns are not only important, they ensure a swift bounce-back. Take a break. An hour of exercise, a ‘duvet’ morning, a day of fresh air…or just a day off to recharge and get personal tasks/chores/objectives done. You’ll bounce back so much stronger.


A trick I’ve used for years is frequenting certain coffee shops, members clubs, restaurants etc. to work…..’Roam-Working’. It satisfies my ‘high-E’ personality, fuelling my energy whilst providing familiar, sporadic social interaction – 2 min social conversations over a coffee, but decent coffee in a familiar setting, rather than stood next to a watery office drinks machine (or worse, kettle and own brand instant coffee). In these hospitality settings, I’ve not only got to know  other regular customers, but equally importantly got to know the owners, the staff, the baristas, etc. At a practical level it means they will often act as defacto PA when meeting people, but more importantly all round, it serves to provide a momentary sense of community, not only to benefit mental health in an otherwise solitary day but also to add enjoyment to the time there, fuelling creativity.

Various levels of lockdown have hindered that ability, but even under the stricter lockdowns when even coffee-shops were take-away only or closed, I’d schedule a video coffee with a contact/friend, just for 15mins to say hi. These chats fuelled my energy but also added a sounding board to my ideas and ideation to my plans (and hopefully theirs). Seeing a friendly face can be a huge tonic when stuck in the same four walls 24/7.

Covid Calories

Everyone seems to have fallen in to one camp or another over lockdown – either got fitter by seizing the opportunity to exercise more (as I have, having increased my cycling over Lockdown 1.0 and since committing to scheduling a weekday, daytime exercise session at least once per week) or having seen the reduced mobility of being in the office have a negative calorific impact. 

Without the walk to the car park, to the sandwich shop, to meeting rooms, to client meetings, etc, the average passive exercise has plummeted. Research has shown that for office workers, the average daily step count has dropped over 55% due to working at home….and that’s before the impact of having the home fridge (and wine cooler) in easy reach. 

Modern smart/fitness watches track steps, so committing to a minimum count is an easy metric, but I will typically ‘save’ 60min worth of conversational calls and head out to walk the dog, to a coffee shop, with airpods, and make those calls whilst walking. The fresh air and heightened heart-rate improves my mental cognisance whilst also increasing the calorie count (and time away from tempting treats).

The impact risks being even worse after the gluttony of a lockdown Christmas and with Gyms now closed to aid the post-festive weightloss….. I’ve set myself exercise targets, and offered to help several friends with their commitment and accountability – community support!

The only thing for sure is that working from home is here to stay. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of people working flexibly increased 0.2% per year to just 5% by the beginning of 2010. That number went from 5% to just over 50% overnight in March….and 70% of those have no plans to ever return to a formal workplace. However you chose to work, you need to make it work for you.

Video Interviews: Tips, Advantages (and Cheats)

We looked at 20 tips to perfect a video interview earlier this year, but with video interviews now set to stay, how can you actually take advantage of the video interview?

First off, make sure everything is set up. It helps your performance and helps your nerves. Quick check-list (covered in more detail here):

  • Check your Tech. Make sure you have the chosen software, download the apps/plugins you need, and that your camera/microphone are set with correct permissions.
  • Set-up your set up. Camera Height (level with the top of your head), lighting (no light behind you/enough light to see you – especially with Autumnal/Winter darkness). Professional, tidy uncluttered background in a quiet room free from distractions.
  • Know your name. Video software requires a name; use yours, not your children’s or an unprofessional nickname.
  • Steady yourself. Make sure your device/computer is fixed, not wobbling…and make sure your seat is fixed, not wobbling. Sit upright. Sit still. Don’t wave your arms.
  • Fuel (pt 1). Make sure your device/computer is plugged in, or at least fully charged.
  • Dress for success. Find the balance. Too formal can work against you, as can being too casual. No tracksuits or pyjamas. Plain clothes, no stripes, no patterns. Professional and clean.
  • Tell the World. Make sure family members/housemates know not to disturb. Phones & devices notification on silent.
  • Fuel (pt 2). Eat and drink before, don’t enter a video interview hungry. Warm drink to settles nerves; food to fuel the brain. 
  • Shine, don’t shine. Shiny skin reads ‘sweaty face’; video will make it far worse. Use matte make-up or a tissue on hand. Don’t be the sweaty guy.
  • Be the Early BirdLog in five minutes early, no more. Be settled and ready. Don’t be caught by surprise shouting to your kids/dog/mum to be quiet or picking your nose.
  • The eyes don’t have it. Remember to give eye contact, look at the camera, not the video footage. 
  • Project and shut up. Speak clearly, don’t interrupt. Important when face-to-face, critical with a time delayed video call.
  • Go big on small talk. Video calls will inevitably have informal ‘chatting’ to start, have interesting things to say….and practice the response to “How has lockdown been for you?”…you know it’s a dead cert.
  • Anticipate the questions. Same as a face-to-face interview. Anticipate the questions/know your answers. 40+ frequent questions here.
  • Close.  Thank the interviewer. Ask if there is anything they need from you, or that you can provide them with. Reiterate your interest. Ask about next steps. Bid them a polite farewell…..Don’t wave goodbye!

But before you panic about the increased stress and pressure of a video interview….they might just be easier, and be less stressful than face-to-face. Here’s why:

Reduce nervous time
Tracking people before an interview, heart-rates often start to increase over 2 hours before the interview time. Getting changed, calculating your journey time, getting to the interview venue ahead of schedule then sitting in an unknown reception area waiting for the inevitable.
……but with your Video Interview, getting dressed ready takes less time, you have zero journey time, zero unknown elements. Nerves will often only kick in as you sit down at your computer/device 5mins before the meeting start time.

No travel delays
Combined with the above, around 20% of my interviewees have some form of travel disruption. Trains/Planes being delayed, roadworks, unexpected congestion; all leading to the phone call warning of potential late arrival, the impact on your first impression, and the stress that goes with it.
……but your Video Interview has no transport concerns, no unexpected delays no unexpected travel stress.

No “Doctors Appointment”
Explaining an unexpected, last minute half-day away from work to attend an interview is never easy and will often arouse suspicion.
……but your Video Interview will not only be just the meeting time away from work, not the associated travel time, when you are working from home, the absence is usually undetected.

“Oh, Hello….what are you doing here…?”
Anyone interviewing with a business in a connected industry will be aware of the risk in being spotted in the firm’s reception; another source of heighten worry and nerves
……but with your Video Interview you are safe and private in your own.

Controlled environment
Interruptions, being too hot/cold, bright/dull lighting, sitting on an uncomfortable chair, personal space; these are all issues interviewees encounter which in turn knock their concentration or ability to perform to the best.
……but your Video Interview environment is under your control. You set the lighting, the temperature, the desk/table you sit at.

Comfort zone
We all like being in our comfort zone; we perform better when we are comfortable. When we are sat in someone else office, it is easy to have our confidence knocked.
……but your Video Interview, you are in your Kingdom, your comfort zone. You’re sat in your room, your favourite chair.

But here’s where you can turn it to your advantage. Video interview cheats/tricks….

Prompts on screen, and off screen

We always advise never to have your CV, or notes in front of you when you are interviewed…but a video interview is a different matter. Be smart about your set-up, and no-one can see you screen. You can have prompts, your CV, research findings all visible on the screen to assist you to convey the points you need to. Need more? Post-it notes near the camera with other prompts (e.g., STAR: Situation, Task, Action, Result: proven tool to aid answering experienced based questioning), or just reminders to smile and look engaged.

Control the impression given
Want to convey a particular impression? You get to control what your interviewers sees. How you come across, what you have in the background, how professional you appear. One candidate knowing their interviewer was a keen cyclist, made sure their bike was visible in the background of the video shot….over half the allotted 45 min interview was spent discussing cycling. Rapport built without trying.

Resource at your fingertips
We’ve already said video interviews enable you to be in your comfort zone, but it also means you can have whatever resource you wish to use at your fingertips. Whether it is showing a sales proposal, products, research documents, PhD thesis. Last resort, you even have Google at your fingertips to help.

10 facts about you
Any good interview will be steered towards you. Strengths/weaknesses, professional achievements (and mistakes), personality traits, your personal USPs. Think about them, write them down and have them on screen during your interview.

Video ‘drop out’
More extreme, and only suggested as a last resort,… but ever found yourself overcome with nerves and wanting to press ‘reset’? Or sat struggling to think of that perfect example? Tied yourself up in knots with an answer? Or worse, been really stumped with how to respond to a question? Turn video off, or even more extreme, dump the wi-fi connection – it’ll give you a couple of minutes to compose yourself whilst the call reconnects.

Good luck….!

Remote Working is back……

March 23rd. “You must stay at home”. Boris ordered what the smarter people and smarter workplaces had implemented a week or two earlier. “Work from home if at all possible”.

Everyone, from contact centre staff to the top executives had to forgo their offices and work from home. Many believed it would last just a few weeks and so they treated it like a brief emergency that required all hands-on deck to cope in the short term – a sticky plaster whilst the wound healed. Business heart-rates increased, rash IT spend occurred and a sense of foreboding gripped the corporate world.

September 23rd. Exactly 6 months later, and we are here again. “Work from home if you are able”. Sharp intake of breath. No ‘Must’ [yet], but the same message….but this time it feels more comfortable, familiar almost. We knew it was coming. We knew why it was coming. We know how to deal with it.

Six months ago, some of my older/more traditional clients were pessimistic, having always shunned the notion of working from home, hiding behind excuses of impracticality, lack of team cohesion and ideation, technology constraints etc….but most simply didn’t trust their workforces to work from home, assuming productivity would plummet.

Six months later, even the most steadfast, anti-flexible working business leader has realised two things.

  • Working from home is the new norm.
  • It’s actually quite good.

I caught up with one client in early September (before the latest guidelines), an owner-MD, 35years of running his business, that had for 35 years refused to allow people to work from home. It had cost him some great staff over the years, but still he refused to relent, even making international sales managers be in the office before catching an evening flight for a multiple-night business trip.

“I was wrong”, his admission of a U-turn a politician would envy. His pivotal moment being when he sent an email to his direct team of 5, close to midnight, 15 mins before heading to bed, only to have 4 responses before his head hit the pillow.

Even beyond from the societal, human and employee benefits, there was a hard-nosed commercial upside. Productivity actually increased, not decreased.

Asking around, every leader of a newly remote team admits that they’ve been pushing themselves and their teams harder, but that their teams had more than stepped up to the plate. Flexibility had its benefits.

Microsoft conducted a survey in July and found that in the four months after their teams moved to remote working, employees worked an average of four more hours a week, attended 10% more meetings but spent 15% less time in those meetings.

True work/life blend has become common as people combined home duties (caring/teaching children being top) with their professional obligations.

Microsoft further analysed this and noticed that a “night shift” emerged: Employees sent 52% more instant messages between 6 p.m. and midnight and worked more hours on weekends utilising dead-time.

But whilst home and remote working clearly isn’t going away across the board anytime soon, such a crisis approach to the daily schedule must.

Chatting with clients, there is a consensus in the need to figure out how they and their teams can work remotely and productively over the long haul while protecting everybody from burnout.

Teams need to work in different ways with different tools, adopting (and recognising) a new approach to the workday and understanding new norms of behaviour and stresses that come with remote work.

As a fellow-cycling fanatic MD of a Business Services client told me: “At first, we viewed it as a short time-trial, then a 100km fondo, then a week-long transcontinental ride. Now we realise it is a way of life.”

I asked 4 different Transformation specialists for their tips on how managers can cope with the new way of life/working, without exhausting either themselves or their employees.

New Norms

The Covid crisis has rendered many old cliches about workplace behaviour as obsolete or at least, incomplete. The old way(s) of working were so old and established that most workplaces don’t give them a second thought, let alone realise they are outdated and largely irrelevant.

When do people arrive at the office? And Why?
How long should a meeting last? And Why?
What time it is deemed appropriate to call home? And Why?
Who sits where? And Why?

More forward-thinking businesses had long realised it is good to analyse these behaviours ahead of Covid, but the new remote world has forced everyone’s hand.

Which behaviours are still relevant and beneficial? Which are getting in the way and acting as a hindrance to growth and performance….to say nothing of employee satisfaction and happiness.
…..Which new behaviours ought to become the new norm?

Recognising the need to review those behaviours, and then following through with the review is enlightening for most businesses. But discussing and communicating those findings is just as important. When teams understand, agree with and follow any shift in workplace norms, they typically work more efficiently and experience less confusion.

Several years ago, before setting up my business, I had to host the Monthly Management Meeting, due to an absent MD. I changed the time of the meeting to 4.30pm, and the venue to a smaller meeting room with no chairs in, with the excuse of the board room being busy, so quick chat then out for an after meeting drink. The four of us stood. After initial consternation, the meeting went on as normal; except it didn’t. We concluded the agenda within 15mins against a norm of 90-120mins. Indeed, the first 15mins of the traditional meetings was spent with oft-repeated pleasantries and small talk.

Once in the bar, I explained my motive – we’d all saved 75mins of our lives (or gained 75mins ‘drink’ time, dependant on one’s perspective.)

No wry smile

One area clients have cited an issue with remote working is the greater use of email to share/gain information – email usage has gone up by an estimated 33% since March – those small ‘stick your head round the door’ questions, casual words of praise or off-the-cuff brain picking in the kitchen, as well as more formal discussions and requests are now being undertaken by email. All fine up to a point, but with two primary downsides.

  1. Committing thoughts to writing needs a more considered approach, even before you consider the audit trail of words written/sent.
  2. Only 7% of any message conveyed is down to the words – body language, tonality to say nothing of a wry smile, facial expressions, dirty looks or use of strategic silences often say more, or at least contextualise both the message sender, and recipient. 

Tsedal Neeley, a professor at Harvard Business School (and author of the book “Remote Work Revolution.” ) urges teams that adopt virtual collaboration to make their often unspoken and subtle expectations more explicit by use of video more than merely electronic messaging.

One CEO client in particular noticed that on Zoom-based Senior Leadership Team meetings, both his HR Director and his Sales Director were private messaging him repeatedly, both about a colleague for whom they felt was acting in a too controlling fashion. Aside from the ethical quandary, the CEO was aware of the breakdown in the team’s cohesion that would have been more easily rectified had the meeting been face-to-face. She addressed the issue by tabling a discussion point at the next meeting to forbid private messages, instead giving everyone a set amount of time to discuss their points.

This has in-turn led to many businesses adopting what Dr Neeley recommended in his book; the notion of a post-Covid/Remote-Working ‘Pre-Nup’ – setting out the expected behaviours, platforms for discussion and ethics in this virtual world.

Use of Rituals to Habitualise Behaviour 

James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits, talks of the need to habitualise behaviour in order to effect change. Humans are great at adopting and habitualising bad habits (for they usually bring immediate gratification), but for more positive change, that reward is often invisible, or at least slow to be evidenced.

This behavioural shift can also be used within teams adopting rituals to communicate and reinforce new ways of working, routines and responsibilities.

James cites that people often struggle to abandon ingrained habits, thus a considered approach needs to be employed to help people accept it is time to let go. Never more the case then when a cohesive team is suddenly all based remotely. These rituals can be employed to “smash the old ways”, sometimes literally – a client of mine many years ago invited employees to physically smash their old desktop computers after adopting a mobile-tech strategy; several teams members actually used sledgehammers to smash some of the worthless old desktop computers.

Other, less dramatic rituals can be adopted by teams to ensure universal acceptance of change. Sharing around the ‘chairing’ of meetings; requesting each attendee use a prompt item to detail a challenge faced in the preceding period; or detail a positive outcome/lesson remote working has enabled. Even just changing the format of certain meetings – one client company put in place the directive that certain video meetings being held when the weather was good were done whilst each attendee was outdoors, walking.

Co-Ordinated Rhythms

Remote-working has brought about a beautiful ability to work according to personal circumstances alongside professional deadlines. There is nothing less productive than being forced to work at a time when your mind isn’t engaged – for many the ‘dead zone’ straight after lunchtime sees a lull in productivity, working around that makes huge sense.

But coordinating a working rhythm with an entire team brings additional challenges.

The idea of a 9-to-5 job may have all but disappeared a long time ago, especially within private businesses, but there still remained a sense of rhythm amongst teams. Start times were broadly the same in time, structure and format.

Any office I have worked within saw people arrive within half an hour of each other, typically all ahead of a notional start time. The rhythm was set, arrive, make coffee(s), swap small talk then by some unwritten guidance, be ready for the start of the business day.

During the day, core business hours, or peak times would dictate a more solo-working approach; individual team members ‘getting their heads down’, minimising the distraction for others. Some businesses adopt the red hat/green hat mentality (red hat meaning I need to be left alone, green hat meaning I can be interrupted – an organic DND button).

The end of each day would be similar, once the business day had quietened down, the exit process started – for some at set times due to public transport, for others just a shift in a more relaxed working style, increased conversation, as each individual began to shift the balance from work to life.

Physical teams develop a natural crescendo and diminuendo bookending the day, and an unwritten cycle of quiet activity and more outwardly vocal collaboration.

But within virtual teams especially with remote working, and even more especially during such a crisis as we find ourselves within, teams often struggle to define and figure out when and how to start and stop work, and equally difficultly, when to work alone and together.

In place of organic rhythms, evolved over time, teams (and their team leaders) need to design new rhythms.

An MD client explained to me how his teams started each morning with a stand-up meeting, helping them make the transition to working from home. Much as when they worked in the same office, every morning at 8.30a.m., each person would stand in front of their laptop or mounted phone, with or without the coffee that would typically accompany the early interaction in the office, and describes their goals and challenges for the day whilst soliciting advice for areas of challenge, or understand shared challenges.

Again, at the end of each day they would ‘meet’ online, again standing up, demonstrating and discussing what they had accomplished, struggled with or merely sought to discuss, and again share opinion and advice. Some Fridays, the MD would arrange for a bottle of wine/case of beer to be delivered so they might allow the week’s mop-up to transition into a more relaxed forum, as it did in real life at times as they retired to a bar, to signal and toast the end of the week as well as protect the team spirit as much as possible.

These daily rituals help teams to coordinate their work with fellow teammates but also to aid communication, knowing what to work on each day, and when each person’s time (or the whole team’s time) is constrained and when it is more flexible.

The end of the day ‘mop up’ session is also useful to indicate the end of the formal part of the working day.

Some clients I spoke to have adopted ‘Airplane Mode’ afternoons once or twice per week. A set period of time when wi-fi and phones are turned off, thus preventing team communication and allowing all team-members to focus on work, undistracted.

A study by Harvard Business School extolled the benefits of what it termed collective silence. Having studied numerous teams that routinely interrupted each other so much that many team members had to work nights and weekends to complete projects, the study enforced “quiet time” for three half days per week. It worked. Over 70% of teams taking part hit more deadlines than ever before.

Communicate efficiently. 100% to 0%

Shared rhythms as above are instrumental in getting teams to perform; Knowing when to work, when to collaborate and when to bond helps maximise both efficiency AND enjoyment whilst also minimising the risk of exhaustion  help people get work done and avoid exhaustion because they know when.

The more dramatic the switch from communication to silence, the more dramatic the output. Numerous studies have shown that having short bursts of intense communication, brainstorming/sharing problems/sharing ideas following by more prolonged periods of quiet working time elicits far greater results than allowing more continuous communication – short bursts being more direct and more focussed to gain a quick result.

Several clients have adopted 2 or 3 times during the day designated as communication bursts – often by group message, as well as video where ideas are introduced, discussed and rationalised but interruptions to ongoing productivity are minimised. After each short session, communication ceases for a couple of hours. The productivity win of such an approach is often dramatic.

Switch off to switch off

It’s been sh*t. A year that started with optimism, micro and macro economies showing stability, confidence and financial sure-footedness, suddenly exploded. And exploded dramatically. Overnight we went from calm seas to crisis management.

For many suddenly forced to work from home with just hours’ notice, it was a huge upheaval. Many individuals struggled with the ability to get into ‘work mode’, sitting at their kitchen table with the breakfast dishes unwashed behind them, the washing machine on its second fast spin and home-schooling children screaming for help.

People, and entire teams have struggled to find a new-world cadence during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Working from home became more like living at work. The constant temptation to monitor devices and communicate at all hours of the day and night; responding to every buzz, beep or plink as an urgent matter that must be dealt with immediately. The ‘work desk’ being ever present; the mind never disengaged.  Those new to home working often had no idea when to stop, risking exhaustion, despair and burnout, as well as further disconnecting from family at a time when the opposite should have been occurring.

The smarter, more balanced people minimised such risks by putting their own physical and mental health at the forefront; not treating life as one long emergency.

The human mind & body has a great ability to deal with stress; fight or flight – our bodies produce cortisol, shutting down non-essential functions and diverting all energy to combatting the problem in front of us……but we are biologically designed to have to deal with such an attack for seconds, not as a permanent state.

Learning how to deal with stress is critical for medium and long-term health. Those who have swapped their ‘we need to give 120%’ to ‘I need to reset for 30mins’ will perform better, for longer.

And with that, I’m going out on my bike for a couple of hours…….

Boardroom clear-outs. A new epidemic? Investors become Dons.

Tom Hagen was removed as Consigliere by Don Michael Corleone, replaced by Michael’s father, the former Don, Vito, soon after Michael assumed the lead of the ‘family business’.

“You’re not a wartime Consigliere Tom” was Don Corleone’s reason to his adopted brother.

Godfather analogies are rife through business leadership & advice, from “Go to the Mattresses” to “It’s not personal. It’s strictly business” …and who could ignore Michael’s regaling of gun-wielding Luca Brasi’s negotiation tactic or ‘either his name or his brains would be on the contract’.

But the Wartime Consigliere move is one that is being replicated in an increasing number of main board, and investor/backer meetings during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Seven phone calls in 10 days with a mixture of Chairmen, CEOs, Business Leaders and PE/Venture Capital backers have shown discussions about the quality of existing management and leadership teams across businesses. Those currently sat around these boardroom tables often having been more than adequate in peace-time, have suddenly exposed weaknesses in wartime.

Most have expressed a desire to add to their board(s), introducing new Commercial and Intellectual Firepower, new experience, new skills. Some in replacing roles left out in reorganisations over recent years or merged as the lesser component in another Director’s remit.

Some however are discussions about ‘Tom Hagening’ certain Directors, not just collective weakness or deficit of experience around the leadership table, but specific individuals being left wanting as the business suddenly ‘go to the mattresses’ and being set to be replaced.

We’ve started planning two searches already, discussing how to address those apparent weaknesses with newly-created appointments, with slightly more generic conversations with three other businesses seeking to replace individual members of the SLT.

In one case, a VC-backed business, the discussion is about replacing the entire 4-man board based on their ability to cope in this current wartime….and high on the discussion is the move to a female dominant board, and increasing the ‘years of experience’ average.

It isn’t really a new phenomenon; we saw similar moves after the financial crisis 10 years ago, as the move towards more prudent finance-background GMs, MDs & CEOs saw the ‘numbers guy’ get the top job in over 80% of cases from 2010 to 2014.

…..nor is it a ‘opposition politics’ approach of crystal ball, hindsight benefitted criticism of decisions taken weeks earlier in the heat of battle.

But it is a wake-up call to a lot of business leaders, and in particular, significant shareholders as they analyse the planning/quality/time/cost of the previous recruitment processes or often just the level of remuneration investment into their senior management.

The most commonly cited observation from those seeking to ‘Tom Hagen’ a member of their leadership team, was that the individual’s appointment had not been fully planned or thought out. Specifically that the short AND long term objectives had not been fully mapped, and the appointment influenced by cost & speed, not quality. Francis Ford Coppola was famous for the planning detail he carried over from Mario Puzo’s book of the Godfather to the films, as witnesses by this photo of his notes on Puzo’s book. As with recruitment, too little time and planning detail leads to a substandard output.

Another telling factor is the reduced tenures of senior execs, lessening the business experience of the average board members and leaving them even more unprepared for periods of crisis management.

Beyond that, it is an increased cognisance of what just might be needed from a board of directors, and a wartime consigliere.

“It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.”


So what does make a strong wartime business leader?

I had a Zoom call (what else in the current climate) with a few of the contacts that make up our ‘Virtual Board’, a collection of varied executives I’ve put together, offering their advice for free out to businesses in the current climate. We talked through the leadership traits sought by organisations to help them through the coronavirus crisis.

Humanity, Empathy & Inclusivity

Senior leaders are always under financial pressure from investors, with good reason as the damage the virus is already causing to many businesses is significant. But employees don’t want to hear how much the virus is costing the business, they want to know that although their leaders are employed to lead and run the business, they are also human, that they care for their employees and that they share and understand what they are going through.

An HR Director on our Virtual Board advises that the overall leader must lead from the front, displaying the values and behaviours they expect from their teams….but it doesn’t mean being isolated. Leaders often pride themselves their ability to make resolute decisions and find relying on the decisions/opinions of others more difficult, but in times like these, when everyone is outside of their comfort zone, that becomes a key skill.


Always a key leadership skill, even more so at the moment. The agility to change strategies, plans and work schedules but also your own leadership style, especially as different leadership styles will likely be required as 2020 progresses through different stages. A CEO on our Virtual Board suggested that the current affiliative and inclusive style of leadership, reaching decisions through consensus and reliant on relationships, may have to give way to a more directive, expedited pacesetting or ‘run to keep up/make up for lost time’ approach once the virus starts to lessen its grip on global market economies.


Never more than in crisis, leaders know they need to communicate with all stakeholders, communicating quickly and clearly to get and keep ahead of potential issues, rather than mitigating false information.

Communicating with employees is equally critical, especially in detailing the protocols being put in place to keep them, and their jobs safe.

Suppliers, partners, vendors & customers likewise benefit from transparent communication. Whether setting up project teams to share intelligence, or merely candidly advising of current and expected positions, whilst understanding and showing empathy to the positions of others to ensure collaboration, mutual understanding/appreciation and the ability to provide an effective roadmap is in place; one Chairman on our Virtual Board has already set in place numerous Project Teams to monitor and provide updates to all partners/vendors.

Investor Relations & Corporate Communications likewise need to work in unison with all the above to ensure commonality of message.

Ultimately, all organisations need to communicate differently. Hospitality has different concerns to global travel; both have different concerns to global manufacturers or industrial B2B groups. Tailoring communication to all stakeholders becomes even more critical.

A Comms and Marketing Leader on our Virtual Board advises that “Authenticity and transparency is critical, everyone is in some degree nervous about the micro and macro implications of the Coronavirus, keeping all stakeholders in your business engaged, informed as well as safe is essential. Engaging the Human Resources and various Team Leaders is key to maintaining a steady hand, and upholding confidence as much as possible. Dealing with concerns, right down to an individual level, without becoming proactively alarmist, is vital.”

She also added that authenticity and transparency can mean it is ok to admit to being afraid, or to admit to not knowing something immediately. Communications should always centre around “here’s what we know, what we don’t know, and what we’re trying to find out,”

Business as usual. Effective, realistic & secure

It is right that a business leader’s focus should be on keeping employees and their families safe, secure and free from contagion. The security that brings will have untold benefits in the long-term preservation of ongoing operations.

For businesses, that includes contingency plans within the Supply Chain. A Supply Chain exec on our Virtual Board has advised several business on the validity of secondary suppliers for key components and inventory, avoiding not only delays but also the avoidance of premium pricing for fast turnaround.

Longer term planning also needs focus, a seasoned NED specialising in M&A advises. Certain routine tasks can be pushed back; reporting structures, long-term workflow planning and more general BAU process improvements, but for those building towards key parts of M&A and/or restructuring projects are worthy of pushing on with, and even accelerating, not only to keep the broader leadership team aligned on strategy, but also to take advantage of opportunities that might arise, both external opportunities, but also sense-testing the validity and realistic achievement of timetables set. Those expectations can more easily be reset at the moment, both internally and externally.

Out of Office not Out of Work

Government lockdown stipulations that all work that can be done from home must be done from home has tested business’s ability to offer effective flexible working. Less than 20% of the UK workforce routinely worked out of the office prior to the epidemic, and for many of those is was a infrequent lifestyle choice for the employee, and a begrudged capitulation for the employer, in the knowledge that it would often be an imperfect solution, devoid of a full suite of tools at the employees’ disposal.

One certain outcome of the virus will be a dramatic shift in the perception and acceptance of home-working, backed up with the ability to do so. Downloads of office software, and especially communication apps have surged in the last two months. Zoom saw 200 million calls per day in March, rising to 300 million last month. For reference, last year it never went above 10 million per day.

A CTO on our Virtual Board advises that modern technology makes the ability to facilitate home-working comparatively easy at a rudimentary level, basic communication and remote access to server based systems are commonplace, but to ensure optimum (or even just maintained) productivity and business performance, investment in more advanced systems can yield benefits.

But the challenges to business though mass remote working reach far greater. Aside form the impact on productivity, the impact of more people working from home more often can have a huge impact on leadership. Teams typically thrive on the physical environment and face-to-face collaboration. To have such an enforced remote structure can bring about significant destabilisation.

A COO on our Virtual Board with a background in digitalisation warns of the investment (monetary AND time) needed to ensure optimum remote working, from understanding every physical constraint (IT/UC infrastructure) through to frequent contact. He even voiced the benefit in transferring some aspects of the workplace culture to the home from team-meetings done by video, to social interaction and participation. He even facilitated an end-of-month celebration on the last day of April by delivering a drink to members of his team to toast a successful month.

But he also voiced that leadership attitude is key to making remote working ‘work’. Trust is at the centre of that attitude, alongside realism.

His final word was more cautionary, physical and cyber security. 100s, potentially 1000s of unfamiliar log-in locations using non-controlled devices brings security challenges. He advised the creation of a security team/function to monitor abnormal behaviour whilst having contingency plans in place where necessary.


Buzz word of the moment. Internally and externally, engagement is key, but it is also something leaders struggle with in normal times. A Forbes survey last year showed that fewer than half of employees said they were ‘highly engaged’ at work; and the task is even harder with remote working.

Our HR leader states there are many approaches to aiding workplace engagement, but she recommends a three-step approach. Listen to employees. Act on their feedback. Evidence the action on their feedback.

Look to tomorrow.

Business has long embraced ‘purpose’ beyond profit maximisation, the benefit of stating a businesses purpose, then encouraging the entire business to revolve around that purpose has far reaching benefits from employee engagement & collaboration, PR/marketing clarity and even long term profitability.

Our Virtual Board’s Marketing Director warns against abandoning such purpose in favour of maximising short-term profitability. She advises that from experience, strong leaders are able to use and fall back on the shared purpose and community during period of short-term crisis that yield longer term benefits, internally, but especially externally. Witnessing the number of charitable endeavours many consumer businesses are embracing at present by facilitating the supply & distribution of everything from medical equipment and cleanliness products right through to food and provisions to vulnerable people.

Adversity yields strength.

The Covid-19 pandemic will without question identify great businesses, and business leaders. Business history is riddled with businesses that were created in times of crisis. Disney, FedEx, GE, HP, IBM, Microsoft. More recently WhatsApp, Airbnb and Groupon. More than a $trillion of current value in 9 businesses.

But beyond that, the links between the coronavirus and opportunities to contribute to society and provide business value simultaneously are already starkly obvious. There will be many leaders who emerge from this virus crisis, they will be amongst our future greatest business leaders.

Back to Don Corleone…. “I have always believed helping your fellow man is profitable in every sense, personally and bottom-line”…

Contact me to find out more about out Virtual Board

Coronavirus Recruitment – Faster than HS2

The Coronavirus hasn’t been the most positive impact on the recruitment market I’ve known. As an overall sector, the market has contracted somewhere between 23% and 70% since the March 23rd lockdown announcement, depending on which source you listen to. All of which are probably largely subjective.

Baring in mind as the shutters came down on the recruitment market,.. economy,.. country,.. world,.. the UK was at record high employment (76.6%, up 0.4% on the previous month), and there were 817,000 job vacancies. The jobs market could scarcely have been in a better place, so any hiccup was going to see a contraction regardless. Plus, the weeks since 23rd March would have contracted anyway due to the Easter break. (for reference, the recruitment market in April 2019 was 26% down on March 2019, again largely due to the Easter break)

But it is still, well,….(I want to say crap, but that’s not professional), so lets say ‘challenging’. It is still challenging.

Executive Search has been less affected than volume contingent recruitment. Tales from friends in the contingent bulk end of the recruitment marketplace make for sour reading. Workforces furloughed, live recruitment processes mostly cancelled, offices closed physically and virtually. All whilst still coping with a hefty fixed cost base.

Conversely, all our mandates are still live, offer processes have gone on unaffected and with just one international appointment as an exception, start dates adhered to (and that appointment delayed by just one month for logistical reasons).

Furthermore, whilst our new instructions from 23rd March to 10th May are running at 70% of the same 7 week period in 2019, we have commenced new roles including a £150k Chief Operating Officer, a £100k Head of Digital Marketing and a £70k Commercial Relationship Leader.

We have also had twice as many early instruction conversations than we had in the whole of Q2 last year, largely helped by the ‘Wartime Consigliere’ boardroom cull planned by investors as reported last week, here: Boardroom clear-outs. A new epidemic? Investors become Dons.

There are some interesting stats that have come out of the Covid-19 ‘situation’ so far.

Beating HS2

10 years ago, HS2, the cornerstone of the Northern Powerhouse, promised the redistribution of business & talent from London to the North. It would take 25yrs, maybe more. But the magnetic draw to the top executives to the South-East would be lessened.

10 years on, and in the 5 weeks since the lockdown announcement to the end of April we saw a 400% increase in London-based execs speculatively applying for Northern-based roles.

Living in such a densely populated area was a large factor, but the most commonly given reason given by execs was quality of life, and in particular, the quality of home life.

Whilst the executives in the north coped with lockdown in houses with at least twice the room count compared to humans, and garden or three, often a fairly large garden or three, and a semi-rural Cheshire setting, with countryside view, and double garage and/or out-buildings converted into a gym/fitness suite; their inner-M25 counterparts were often sat in £7-figure houses, in densely populated locations, minimal outdoor space, minimal indoor space, no garage indoor gym, etc.

The first two conversations that arouse were from execs on significant £6-figure salaries, both with families. One lived near Richmond in a ‘townhouse’, with no off-street parking, let alone a garage, and a rear garden that if all three of his children were in it, the cat couldn’t be swung freely. Lockdown was a challenge.

The other, an original Northerner that lived in an apartment overlooking Battersea Park that he had bought 4 years ago for twice what he’d sold his 5 bedroom detached house near Knutsford for. No garden. No parking. Not even a balcony. And his only route outside was via numerous communal areas/keypads/access buttons. Lockdown was more like imprisonment.

These were the first of many that cited the bright garden lights of the North-West as being a huge attraction.

If the 25 year HS2 project was all about redistributing business talent and wealth to the North, Covid-19 achieved the same objective in less than 25 days.

Greener than Green

The environmental impact on the Coronavirus has been well reported. One look over any major city, or any satellite images over a major city, and the dramatic drop in pollution is incredible….indeed, anyone that has sat outside without sun-cream on for an hour or two will notice how much quicker they burn(!). 

NO2 density levels are roughly 30% down, or around 30 years. Some cities have seen more than a 50% drop. Covid-19 has done more to help the environment in two months, than environmental campaigners have achieved in two decades.

We’ve also seen animals regaining town streets, from Sea Lions in Buenos Aires, to Goats in Llandudno.

But even within recruitment, we’ve seen a marked shift in key desirables for executive job seekers.

I touched on the subject two months ago with the (now seemingly prophetic) blog, No office is the new ‘corner office’. Highlighting the growing trend for flexible working patterns and the need for businesses to offer fully integrated technological solutions to allow it.

3 weeks after that blog, we just about all started working from home; some afforded more fully integrated technological solutions than others. But the benefit that has brought to family dynamics has shifted executives’ views on flexibility – more and more citing the desire to have the ability to work from home for at least part of the time.

The driver for that is partly familial, but equally common is the efficiency execs have discovered exists without the real-world interruptions having your team on the other side of an office door brings.

Our first interview with headhunted execs is extremely conversational, but does cover motivations that would increase the interest in a career move. That efficiency of working, new found objectivity in a day’s productivity has become a frequent panacea for team and business leaders.

Likewise the travel policies of international roles. The top three ‘must haves’ for more international execs used to typically be centred around class of travel/class of hotel/time considerations for long-haul/etc….. It is now the absolute need for the travel in the first place.

A global Pharmaceutical Sales Director interviewed last Friday typified that trend. I conducted my first interview with her in March. At that time she was totally comfortable with anything under 50% international travel. But her view changed quickly. She had had her travel completely stopped in the same week we met in March due to the impending pandemic; and yet her performance, her sales, her profitability and her customer contact has been wholly unaffected. The same thing for her team.

It left her with a ‘road to Damascus’ like conversion that FaceTime was a perfectly good substitute for face time. Her travel wouldn’t be 0%, but she now knows the 150+ days she spent travelling, seeing all other aspects of her professional life disrupted as well as being away from home, away from her family, having the need to be within 15mins of a major international airport,…would be dramatically eased. As would the newly-realised potential threat to health of spending 100s of hours a year in a crowded airport, exec lounge or otherwise.

What’s more, the CEO that interviewed her sat wide-eyed at the prospect of having a Sales Director that would be on the ground for most of the 52 weeks per year he needed her, to say nothing of the cost and upheaval to the team left behind.

Those drivers may be personal, familial or financial….but the positive impact on the environment if it becomes common place is significant. Unless your surname is Branson, Walsh or Al Maktoum.

Even at a national level, the dramatic reduction in physical meetings, and time moved away from the UK’s road and rail networks and on to the increasing choice of virtual platforms as the same impact on time/cost/efficiency/environment as the perceptively more glamourous world of international travel.

So what of the short-term future for Exec Search?

Like I admitted in March’s blog The one with Recruitment and a Coronavirus, I’ve no real idea. I don’t think anyone really has. The signs then were optimistic. Roles created due to the Coronavirus (directly or due to executive time permitting greater strategic planning).

Those signs are equally relevant and present today. The recession that is inevitable after this crisis will be the fourth I’ve recruited in (and through….hopefully!). Exec Search is a great barometer of business activity and confidence, but the wider recruitment sector can be one of the last to emerge out of economic slowdowns. BUT….. my last three recessions were dogged with a lack of appetite to recruit. This time it is different.

The conversations we’ve had for the last 7 weeks have had a common theme, businesses WANT to recruit but just can’t at the moment. Back to where we started, the exec job market was buoyant. Quality candidate scarcity, all-time low unemployment/high-employment and tempered optimism from an economy that had solid foundations.

Add into that the already-in-discussion boardroom shake-ups as discussed in last week’s blog Boardroom clear-outs. A new epidemic?, the signs are good.

For the north at least…..





The one with Recruitment and a Coronavirus

***April Update below***

Welcome to the post-apocalyptic recruitment market. Just two weeks after writing about how having No Office was deemed a greater attraction, and greater modern indicator of success than having a Hollywood-esque swanky Corner Office, we’re all being encouraged to work from home. Adopting this new thing called ‘social distancing’.

The Covid-19 Coronavirus outbreak is first and foremost a human tragedy, affecting hundreds of thousands of people; with millions more faced with converting their own ‘social distancing’ to ‘self-isolation’.

But the Global economy is likewise seeing a growing impact. From multinational corporations to the local coffee shop, the business response has been as dramatic and rapid as the virus itself.  Business owners across the spectrum are exhibiting a sharp intake of breath.

The Chancellor’s £350bn funding package announced yesterday will cause a slight exhale, but business is suddenly very different from even just 2 weeks ago, transformatively so. Not least in the way in which we employ.

Recruitment in the C-19 Apocalypse

“Business with slash all discretionary spend, today” was the well-informed soundbite from a highly respected business voice. “Advertising, Marketing, PR, Events, Travel, Hospitality, Entertainment…..recruitment”.

Friends, contacts & family in Advertising, Marketing, Event Management, PR, Travel and Hospitality concurred as they all sent up their own distress flares. Ethical leadership has been abundant amongst them all, every one stating they would stand by their team, their business, their corporate baby….guarantee jobs….and take the stress on themselves. The best have adopted Tony Robbins’ meme: “Anticipation is the ultimate power. Losers react; leaders anticipate”. But real and genuine business challenges are there. They are all battening down the hatches. ‘When’ became ‘If’.

The business approach on the whole has been heart-warming, from Apple and Rapha committing to 100% pay for employees, banks offering mortgage payment holidays to small business owners standing wholly behind every single employee. It is all as ‘new millennium’ as forgoing a CEO Corner Office for the benefit of No Office.

But recruitment……. We’ve won three new roles in the last week. We have also seen increased traction on most other live roles, from both hiring companies and ‘candidates’. All this in the week that has seen the world stop.

I can give you a great argument as to why recruitment is not a discretionary spend, but then so can every Advertising Exec/Marketeer/PR guru/Event Co-Ordinator/Travel Advisor/Hospitality Manager about their respective sectors, but most of those have seen downturns range from concerning to catastrophic?

So why is recruitment responding differently? I didn’t know. So I asked.

For businesses, the prime reason was even this brief time away from the office, the clarity that can bring and the forced re-calibration of business life caused reassessment and recalculation of their business/team/strategy. Increased ‘What now”/”What if” planning increased focus on human resource and it’s available intellectual firepower. Some cited the need to increase overall leadership/staffing to more effectively and efficiently cover their teams and teams objectives. For some it was merely the desire to ensure everything was in the best shape ahead of any further tightening of business/employment conditions…..and priming their business to capitalise when this externally created slowdown weakens and business springs back; the consensus being that the rebound will be as uncharacteristically dramatic as the downward trajectory the virus created.

For individuals, the increased clarity/refocussing as above played a significant part, but several have also suddenly seen the benefit of the sudden and enforced flexible structure/home-working/roam-working; especially at a time when their families really need them, often countered by the sudden cognisant of how behind the modern norm their current employer might be.

Seeing business and human clarity whilst we are still in the midst (and may not even as far as the midst) of a pandemic and human/economic catastrophe provides comfort about the human spirit. The human resource…. It is Human, more than just a resource.

Practicalities – Virtually Perfect

I’m lucky, my team already work flexibly, almost exclusively home based with a focus purely on output, not measurable effort. Our twice-weekly meetings are already done by video conference, with twice-monthly face-to-face get-togethers more about sociability and a quest for good coffee. My social-distancing is having a greater impact on my training, cycling and ability to make morning calls whilst walking the dog to my favourite independent coffee shop. Beyond that, it is largely business as normal.

My ratio of face-to-face interviews to virtual has gone from 9:1 to over 95% video. Even more telling, every international interview has been converted to a video conference since early March, and all but one domestic process has elected to hold ‘virtual’ interviews rather than face-to-face.

….indeed, just today, I have had the first ever offer extended to a candidate that has never actually met her future CEO, fellow board members, or even visited their site. But it doesn’t phase her. A modern-outlook business that automatically provides absolute flexibility providing them with a team of 12 spread across 9 different European countries.

Video interviews do take preparation and practise. My tips, and funny anecdotes/screenshots can be found in this blog; Virtually Perfect.

The interruption this virus is causing is beyond comprehension, and still largely unknown; But a longer lasting viral impact will be the influence on our way of working and the re-evaluation Covid-19 will enforce.

UPDATE. 1st April

Much of the above still rings true. All interviews and meetings are now clearly online. Our Video interview tips are getting around 500 views per day, but it is a skill many of us are getting practice to perfect.

The market is still buoyant, and whilst we have only had one new role since those mentioned above, unsurprisingly a B2C Head of Digital leadership role, every single mandate is progressing as normal; albeit with virtual stages rather than physical. We’ve also had two offers, both accepted, both with the successful candidate never having physically met their fellow SLT members.

Business sentiment from every conversation is about when we merge, not if; and businesses are already finding solutions to ensure they are operating at, or close to business as normal wherever possible.

For a more light-hearted insight on recruitment today…..this is another new role we are stating today, US-based $400k President role, relocation & accommodation provided.

“Anticipation is the Ultimate Power. Losers React; Leaders Anticipate”
                                                                                        – Tony Robbins

Virtually Perfect – 20 Tips to Perfect Your Video Call/Interview

Between Social-Distancing, Self-Isolation and increasing Societal Lockdown, traditional meetings have virtually been all been converted to ‘virtual’ in the last two weeks.

The UK was well behind the Far East and the US in the proportion of video meetings. In 2019 43% of US business meetings were ‘virtual’ compared with just 7% in the UK. Yet in the last week, Video Conference vehicles have seen around a 1,200% increase, and we’ve only just begun……

My ratio of face-to-face interviews to virtual has gone from 9:1 to over 90% video. Even more telling, every international interview has been converted to a video conference since early March, and all but one domestic process has elected to hold ‘virtual’ interviews rather than face-to-face.


It’s over 50 years ago that JFK defeated Nixon in the first ever, televised presidential debate. JFK won, not just because of what he said, but because he and his team knew how to manage that new medium. He knew that a blue shirt played well on screen, Nixon just wore his standard white and looked washed out.

The Video Interview was born.

Despite the current Coronavirus crisis, they will never replace a true face-to-face interview, but as a screening tool they are already becoming increasingly common, especially for international recruitment assignments. With the enforced reliance the current crisis is ensuring, the comfort of using the medium more broadly is inevitable.

Live Video is the prime growth area, directly replacing the face-to-face meeting, usually 1-2-1, but increasingly commonly providing multiple people to take part, contrite or just observe.

However, a longer used tool is a Recorded Video. Often preferred by less confident hiring managers, they will ask all (usually shortlisted) candidates to record their answers to a small number of set questions to allow recruiters/hiring managers to compare their answers, personality, body language, fit style and approach….and do so at their leisure. This approach can also be an indicator of the commitment of the candidate to the process. Will they invest the time.


Workforce consulting firm Right Management undertook research this year. They discovered that the number of Executive candidates who took part in a video interview might still only be just under 40% in 2019, but that was more than double the number from 2015. This is a growth trend.

Six in 10 recruiters currently incorporate video into the interview process.

66% of candidates say they actually prefer video interviews to face-to-face.

Even more tellingly, 53% of In-House recruiters said they could see the video interview replacing internal face-to-face interviews within 5 years.

74% of hiring managers said it made their jobs easier. 85% said it saved them money. 88% said it reduced their time spent on filling roles and 76% said they were easy to perform. For recruiters those numbers were even higher.

Gary ChaplinVideo Interviewing brings with it huge benefits over simple phone calls, but still has deficits over ‘real’ interviews. In communication 55% of the message is down to body language and facial expressions. 38% is tone of voice, and only 7% from the actual words that are said.

7% is a staggering level, but it underpins why there has been such an explosion of video interviews…and why the development of digital interview skills is so critical, on both sides of the interview table, or camera.

Author Paul Bailo has researched this field in preparation for a book on this subject. The experiences applicants and interviewers shared confirmed his opinion that the majority of candidates have been handling video interviews badly so far, or at a minimum are failing to capitalise the potential power of the new digital resources they have.

The key to success in a video interview is to make the technology work for you, which ever side of the ‘camera’ you are. Video can make you look polished, confident, competent and professional as well as personable, engaging and with great communication and leadership ability…. or it can make you look introverted, ponderous, fickle, unintelligent and languid.

These are tips for being effective when you are in a video interview:

1. Camera height
People look better when the camera looks down on them. Looking up gives definitionScreen Shot 2015-02-09 at 13.16.13 to your chin, which in turn is a visual indicator of strength and character. This isn’t easy with a laptop as camera height will be lower and the screen will be angled away from you. Play with your ‘video space’; work at having the camera sit level with the top of your head (any more and you will look lke ‘Oliver’), it will help you maintain good posture while giving you the most attractive camera angle.

Be especially aware of of having your head only partially visible at the bottom of the image, and of leaning into the camera. It can be seen as intimidating, or worse…give you a fish-eye appearance.

2. Choose your software
There are a plethora of video conferencing tools and software options, the interviewer may have there own that they can invite you to use, but Skype and FaceTime (Apple/Mac only) work great and, ceteris paribus, both offer HD picture and sound quality. Make sure you have Skype installed and updated.

3. Choose your username
Facetime links to email address and/or phone numbers (i.e., Apple ID), but for Skype you have to choose a username. Make sure it is appropriate for a professional meeting. HornyBigBear or HotSexyMinx may get you noticed in a chat room, but it won’t convey the right persona for an interview.

4. Choose the Venue
Solitariness and internet connection is everything. You need a quite space, where no interruptions, visual or audible, are likely….and you need a fast reliable internet connection. Home is often the best location. Most homes have 50-100MB connection and greater control over the environment……but they also often have family members, especially during self-isolation. Closed doors and alerting your family can save embarrassment – just ask Robert Kelly!

5. Choose the setting
Don’t have a busy, noisy environment. Avoid coffee shops, or any office with a backdrop of dozens of other people (or anything moving). Move your computer/camera so that no other moving thing can be seen – facing the corner of an office can be ideal, or the now ubiquitous bookcase! But…… don’t have a totally bland white background. A plain white or wall can set your interview off on the wrong footing by looking like a prison cell. Minimal wall furniture or pictures etc, if professional, will provide the ideal setting. You should not see any of the table, and preferably not your chair. You are aiming for just head and shoulders on camera, and make sure the only focal point is you.

6. Choose the device
Avoid using Smartphones or Tablets unless necessary. If you do need to use, DO NOT hold them. Rest them in a fixed position. Computers are always preferable and look far more professional.

7. Test the image.
Lights….Camera….Action. Test the picture you are going to transmit. Avoid backlights (sitting against the window) and avoid bright harsh light, or lights coming in from the side (I’ve had candidates look like the Phantom of the Opera before). Ideally, two lamps in front of you (one either side) with less, but still lit background will work well. Beware of a dark rooms, you may think subtle lighting is flattering, but we just can’t see you.

Make sure the image is right. Professional but inviting. Some cameras have settings to allow changes in brightness etc, if not, play with the position and room lighting. Sound likewise, an echoic room will make it sound as if you are hiding in a cupboard, or sat on the toilet!

Clean the camera lens!

8. Be the Star
Most people face video interviews entirely unprepared in themselves. They sit down, turn the computer/camera on and go. But in the competitive job market you should consider yourself the actor, the director and producer of an event that allows you to create your own storyline.” Paul Bailo advises “Make sure your face looks beautiful. Wash your face – a shiny face is not good with a light in front of you. Comb your hair. Clean your nails. Ladies, use a little makeup—but not a lot.”

9. First Impressions. Lasting Impressions
Repeating my First Impressions blog, how you appear in the first 3 seconds of the video connection will make or break the interview. Don’t be the guy caught picking his nose as the connection goes live, the one who shouts to their partner how useless it was, thinking that the video connection has ceased – I’ve seen both!

Dress well – don’t be too informal. Just because it isn’t an interview isn’t carte-blancheGary Chaplin to where a t-shirt. A suit will look wrong, but smart business attire is recommended. But make sure your clothing doesn’t blend in or conflict with the background you choose. Avoid reds and ‘hot’ colors as they don’t translate well on video. Be aware that an orange v-necked top will look like US prison attire.

10. Look at the camera, not the interviewer’s face.
Remember, unlike real interviews, eye contact doesn’t mean eye contact. To look at the other person, you need to look into the camera. You want to be making eye contact, but not staring at them. Move the Skype/FaceTime window so that the other persons image is immediately below the camera. This means you can flick between the two whilst making it barely noticeable. But making eye contact with the camera is critical – it breeds engagement. People read a lack of eye contact as an indicator of un-trustworthiness.

11. Don’t play a 70s CHiPs actor. Get anti-glare put on your glassesGary Chaplin CHiPs
If your wear glasses, non-coated lenses will act like mirrors, at best, your eyes will look like discs of light. Especially as you are looking slightly up. If your interviewer can’t see your eyes, they can’t trust you. You need to look into the camera to establish a connection. They need to see you eyes to feel that connection.

12. Get Hardware on your side
Built in cameras and microphones are usually poor. If you are likely to be doing a number of video interviews, invest is an HD camera, separate microphone and stand. The whole lot will cost under £100. The impact will be significant.

13. Get software on your side
Most computers and devices have built-in cameras, but most do not come equipped with software that manages the output of the camera. Use a video app such as iGlasses allow you to control and crop the image that your computer sends out, rather than settling for the default view. Let your head and shoulders be what the interviewer sees and ensure the output is optimised. This will make your presentation stronger and you stand out from the other interviewees.

14. No Surprises
Check battery. Check connections. Make sure you have all material to hand. Have a drink to hand. Make sure anyone else in the same building/office is aware what is going on to avoid accidental human or animal photobombing.

15. Posture
Don’t lean back, you will look too relaxed; don’t lean forward you will look aggressive; don’t lean to the side you will look weird . An asymmetric seating position is what you are striving for. One hand on your lap, one hand on your desk will give you a good confident stance to start with.

16. Don’t wave your hands around
Hand gestures are one of your only tools to add body language into your performance. But too much movement will just be distracting. The camera exacerbates body movements, but only those ON camera. Aim to retain the asymmetric seating position and only move just one arm to emphasise your performance. Simple hand movements are your only physical means of mirroring your interviewer.

17. Anti-shine makeup
Yes. Even if you are a guy prone to shiny skin. Shiny skin reads ‘sweaty face’. Top Gun volleyball scenes aside, sweaty is not attractive, for either gender. A sweaty face will read as a nervous face, and video amplifies any shine already present. Before you know it, your camera will turn your shine into bizarre white spaces on camera, and all your interviewer will remember you as is the sweaty guys with white patches.

Don’t go for the drag-queen look, or full-on stage make-up. Simple anti-shine makeup is available in makeup departments and at department store counters. You want just enough to eliminate the glare.

18. Wear solid colours, no white unless tanned.
Ever since JFK won his debate with Nixon by wearing a blue shirt, broadcasters and politicians have been superstitious about wearing white on camera. It can give off the same kinds of glare effects as we’ve been avoiding elsewhere. Only if you have tanned or darker skin tones can you pull it off.

More importantly though, stay away from patterns, suits and shirts. Patterns can cause the optical illusion of movement, and on camera, start to play tricks with the video image. You want the interviewer focused on you, not your clothes.

19. Time……Lag.
Don’t talk over your interviewer. This is significantly harder on a video conference where there is likely to be a time-lag of some sort. Be aware of your interviewers body language and let him/her fully finish their question. Don’t be too eager to get your point across.

Take your time in composing your answer. Match your rhythm to accommodate the possibilities of a transmission delay. Use a visual nod to confirm you’ve heard the question, then wait three seconds before you respond. Paul Bailo again advises, pace yourself based on the speed of the technology – don’t use your regular rhythm when there’s an Internet connection involved. This is a big thing. People are moving too quickly, and the bandwidth can’t handle it.”

That said, the ability to think on your feet is an especially welcome trait, easily tested in a video interview.

20. Practice and review.
Singly the most important tip of all. If you are embarking on a serious executive career search, you’ll highly likely be having some video interviews. Practice and review your performance while you practice and review your answers to standard interview questions. Invest in better microphones (the embedded mic in your computer sounds tinny).

Interrogate how you look and how you sound. If you can’t feel and sound confident talking to yourself, you’ll stumble in front of others.

Is your voice too deep? Too squeaky? Do you sound authoritative? Confident? Do you sound monosyllabic or monotone?

Look at how you look on camera. No-one likes looking at themselves on camera, but learn from it. Look for your flaws. Look for what you notice most. Does it serve you and your performance. Look at how your clothes look. Do they look sharp and pristine?

Do you move too much? Or not enough? Do you fidget? Or do you have a corpse like rigidity. Did you slouch? Did you look like the expected new father of a two-week overdue baby.

Your video interview is highly likely to be done on the same day and immediately before/after all the others contenders for the same opportunity. This is probably your greatest chance to shine.

Self-confidence is everything. If you feel confident, you’ll appear confident.

If you are likely to be doing several video interviews, consider getting a bit of media training. Andy Johnson, the former BBC Presenter & Producer, is the North’s preeminent Media Trainer. Mention my name…

Video Fails

  • I’ve had a candidate skype me from the cupboard under the stairs – everytime a family member went up stairs I heard every step
  • Beware of reflections behind, on a recent interview, I could see everything on the interviewees screen as they were sat in front of a mirror. Even worse, a client got an interviewee to screenshare during an interview for an IT role. He saw several chat boxes open where the candidate was online asking the answers as well as complaining about the interviewer!
  • I’ve had several where batteries have failed and the interview has to be continued via phone. It breaks the flow and smacks of being very unprepared.
  • Similarly several where the interviewee has left the video half way through to go to the toilet, or fetch a drink. One notable the family cat took his seat for 2 minutes….and performed better.
  • ….and make sure off is off. I’ve had a number where the candidate has thought they have terminated the connection and continued to talk on how they thought they performed.

And finally. A hidden benefit of a video interview.

A candidate writing in the WSJ tells how quick thinking during his first Skype interview, between the US and China, was instrumental in helping him land his first post-university job.

The interview was going badly and a curveball question had left him entirely stumped. Instinctively, he took advantage of the spotty connection and froze his face for 4 seconds or so while he thought about his response. Disaster was averted, and he ended up landing the job.


No office is the new ‘corner office’.

Think of success and office space. The corner office, vista of downtown New York, 40/50/60+ floors up, 500sq ft+, at least one sofa, a huge desk with multiple screens, board table, more cupboard space than a ‘Real Housewife of XXXXXX’ craves in her dressing room and of course the obligatory interior designer and redecoration budget.

Fuelled by 100s of movies. Michael Douglas in Wall Street. Melanie Griffiths at the end of Working Girl. Bruce Willis in Moonlighting…. More recently, Damien Lewis in Billions or Leonardo Di Caprio in Wolf of Wall Street.

It trickled down to the wish list of every ‘professional’ career-hungry job seeker throughout my headhunting career.

No pay rise, but you’ll have your own office. Few things raised the pulse of young professionals 10/20yrs ago as much as the promise of your own office, preferably with a business card with the word ‘Director’ on it (with embossed Silian Grail on a bone card, ideally with a watermark; for those of a certain era).

But this is 2020. Even an 8 mile commute into a provisional city can be an hour [or two, for the c45 weeks per year major road arteries seem to have ‘improvement’ works on them.]

Status symbols are no longer recognisable for those ‘Gordon Gekko’ era people amongst us. Status car? Probably one that doesn’t exist, or at least one that you now plug in.

As for the executive washroom/prime car parking space….. Can you just imagine in the current ‘equal rights’ environment?

It’s easy to sit aghast at ‘Millennials’ and their whimsical, entitled expectations coupled with attitudes so fragile a miss pronunciation can bring global condemnation….but the truth is that old-school recruitment attraction tools really are last millennium.

An offer for a COO earlier this year afforded the privilege of a private office in a small Group Head Office location, so that the appointee could make use of a confidential, quiet space when required, along with full video conference facilities so that she might liaise with an international workforce (no interior designer/redecoration budget though).

The appointee wasn’t happy. She would rather forego the office and have the flexibility to work remotely; home-office/roam-office, rather than be stuck in a corner office.

The CEO and HRD were initially bamboozled, but very quickly realised that far from being alone, their incoming COO was far from it.

As Millennials progress through the executive ranks, and ‘Gen-Zee-ers’ follow them even quicker, the traditional efforts by large corporates to attract key talent will no longer appeal. The corporate ladder is no longer a barometer of success.

Wind back 24 years. I joined an energetic young recruitment business from a large global recruiter. £4k pay rise….and the chance to swap my Golf GTi for a 6-cylinder BMW. It was the prime basis of offer discussion (negotiated up from a lowly 4-cyl variant).

The business was famed for its car policy, recognising that for young professionals 1 or 2 years out of University, a semi-exotic car was the greatest magnet. The car list was usually read ahead of any offer letter, employment contract and even commission structure. The business even had a salary sacrifice scheme to add options your selected car (as long as it didn’t become a threat to a management level above’s range of available cars).

We look back from the very different world of 2020 with incredulity at such a policy, but in the mid-90s, it worked. Indeed, refusing a colleague the 2.8 BMW Z3 and ‘palming her off with a mere 328i Cabriolet) saw her so disgruntled as to join a competitor.

Today, few people get a car with their job offer. Even a car allowance is becoming less common – the benefit-percentage-calculation of salary being preferable in the savvy-‘20s.

What are they replaced with? A fully expensed ride-share/ride-hailing service for some. Carbon-offset travel policies. Even a corporate account with Airbnb or similar, with a provision for taking family along with you.

Health, wellness and fitness figure heavily, promoting physical and mental health within the business, but more-so recognising its collective importance in people’s lives, and families.

Generation Z will no doubt continue the trend as they enter the workplace and be the target of hiring managers. Digital emersion will no doubt see even greater call (and provision) for remote working, and the attraction structures that go with it, especially with a 2019 Adobe survey highlighting that UK Generation Z-ers are spending 25% more time consuming digital content than millennials, and almost 50% more than the UK as a whole. The generation are no longer digital adopters, but only know life with full digital emersion.

To define, and therefore target success for recruiters, hiring managers and headhunters becomes ever more complex (especially those well ensconced within Generation X!).

Work Life Blend not Work Life Balance.

There is an increasing move towards the newer generations focusing on what they are working for, rather than who. An interest in social and environment responsibility is high on the agenda, as is social mobility and mindful/mental health; influence rather than raw power, sitting alongside the desire for money.

The newer workforce is seeking to blend all aspects of their life; no longer is a ‘clock-in/clock-out’ employment structure desirable, or even acceptable.

Check emails at the gym? Yes.
Meditate whilst ‘at work’? Yes.
Delay your start time to do the school run? Yes.
Work when you awaken at 2am? Yes.
Make the most of a (rare) sunny afternoon to walk/run/cycle? Yes.

Allow your workforce to work where they feel most productive, and how they feel most fulfilled and happy and your corporate collateral will grow exponentially.

Accept the human desire for flexibility and freedom and you will unlock true performance, rather than keep it locked up in a corner office.




Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?

Happy New Year!

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot? Ok, it’s a rhetorical question asking if old times should be forgotten and more generally a ‘call-to-remember’ long standing relationships.  As a Head-Hunter, old acquaintances and long-standing relationships are the back bone to my USPs, and my life.  But what of the past?

Christmas and New Year is a great time of reflection, looking back on the past year – The highs, the lows. The wins, the challenges. The lessons learned and how life has moved on & developed.  But should any of it be forgotten?

Two great quotes:

Live like you will die tomorrow; Learn like you will live forever” – Mahatma Gandhi
I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.” – Tony Robbins

Good or bad, I’m an optimist, an opportunity engineer and a proponent of positivity. Carpe Diem, #JDFI and grabbing (then maximising) opportunities. I largely believe that regret is a wasted emotion and I dislike negativity.  “Whether you believe you can do something, or believe you can’t; You’re right” — another of Tony Robbins’ mantras from his book, Unlimited Power.

Releasing the past

Everything I know has come from what happened in my life, right up until this moment – and everything I will do in the future will be based on past experience and knowledge – so to forget it is irrational.  But we need to take the knowledge, the lessons, the experiences, the results….. then positively release the past and turn to focussing on, planning for and expelling our energy on the future and what it can bring.

Every New Years Eve, we launch Chinese Lanterns (non-metal-wire/ECO variants!), to welcome in the New Year. It is always a highly symbolic activity. Having spent every festive season reflecting on the previous 12 months, and more importantly, in planning/assessing the various options that will start the new year – seeing a large paper balloon literally filled with hot air tugging at my hands, willing to be released before finally lifting into the calm night sky was highly emotive and immensely motivating.

As it soars above our neighbours houses, over Wilmslow town centre, then high above the Cheshire countryside disappearing onwards and upwards – it’s flame is visible for several minutes, highlighting it’s trajectory, taking the old year higher and higher, further and further away; leaving me with the knowledge gained from the year but filled with energy and excitement for the new year just starting.

Embracing the future

If you can’t you must, if you must you can

The few days of the new year have the potential to be the most powerful of the year. The fresh start, the ability to set (additional) objectives and the latent energy built up over the festive season, all provide the ability to springboard into the new year. But to coyne yet another Tony Robbins quote “The path to success is to take massive, determined action”.  Having left the past, but retained the knowledge gained we can plot the course into the new year without that ballast that we carried at the end of the last.

As with every new year, the forthcoming year holds great challenge and great opportunity for me, my business and my family. A daughter about to sit Senior School entrance exams, a small business operating in a growth market, ambitious charity plans and a host of self-set personal challenges to tackle, it is an exciting place to be.

Last Verse

Auld Lang Syne finishes with “And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give us a hand o’ thine!….”. It is a great reminder that people are everything. Yes, they are the basis of my profession, but more importantly they are the backbone to life. Family, friends, partners but also the many many people who made 2019 such a year through their support, advice, assistance, comfort and entertainment.  I’m honoured to have you in my life and call you friends.  Let’s kick arse in 2020.

Live life fully while you’re here. Experience everything. Take care of yourself and your friends. Have fun, be crazy, be weird. Go out and screw up! You’re going to anyway, so you might as well enjoy the process. Take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes: find the cause of your problem and eliminate it. Don’t try to be perfect; just be an excellent example of being human.Tony Robbins

31 Hacks to Help Your Next Career Move

Today, approximately 8.3m school pupils return to school for the new school year. If the other 8,299,999 were anything like my 10yr old daughter, the end of another summer and beginning of the new school year brought a mix of emotions – part excitement, part dread.

At the same time, 31m adults likewise ‘return’ to work after summer, many returning to a period of normality after a summer which saw light nights, warm(er) weather, holidays and overall a little more life in their work/life balance. The mix of emotions was not unlike the 8.3m under-16s.

Decades after leaving school, we still view our year in terms of the school year. We all start gearing up for a September back-to-school. Despite being the 9th month, it is a ‘return’ and the beginning of the long slog to Christmas and the arrival of an old man with a white beard (No, Not Jeremy Corbyn). Just under 4 months when nights get darker, temperatures get cooler, and the longest period with no public holidays. All this against a backdrop of 4/6/8/10 weeks of summer. Little wonder that September to November is the busiest time for people to look for, or be open to, a new job. 1-in-6 people will look at a career move from September to December; that’s over five million people.

So how do you stand-out against your 5m competing job seekers?

Start with two of my favourite quotes:

If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first six sharpening my axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
The path to success is to take massive, determined action” – Tony Robbins

In other words….Preparation and Hard-Work. Sounds easy? You’d think, and yet the volume of people who are wholly passive and seemingly uninterested in expelling any effort into their job search leaves those who do in a significant minority, and with a huge advantage.

So what can you do to prepare and maximise effort (and chances) on the job market?

Having a strong and effective CV is always the predominant tool in anyone’s job search. So big, we devoted an entire blog to it: CV Tips: 20 thing to do,…20 things to avoid

But there is a whole lot more to your job search. Here are 31 Hacks to get you ahead in your career search.

1. What do you want?

Crux of any job search. What are you searching for. For most, pair it back to what it is that you don’t like, or aren’t fully satisfied with in your current role. Then seek to fix it. If it is all about money, this is where you approach your boss/MD and ask for defined objectives to attain the earnings you crave.

For everything else, draw a list of what you would like to see in your next role, and beyond. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” is a dreadful interview question, but a great self analysis tool – especially if it is followed up with, what do I need to do to get there.

For those at a crossroads, and/or unsure what the next steps look like, I suggest drawing up a list of your achievements. Pulling out of that list the things you enjoyed doing, then pulling out of that list the things that are marketable or replicable. That gives you a list of marketable skills, that you enjoy, are good at and have demonstrable ability to deliver.

2. Network

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. An overused adage perhaps, but very very relevant. Most of the best jobs are found by the most effective networkers, whether by networking with HeadHunters (here’s how), business owners, executives or professional advisors. Networking can uncover job opportunities that never hit the open market, as well as arming you with first-rate intelligence to help you shine during any selection or interview process, as well as the potential to lead to a foot-in-the-door.

Draw a list of appropriate targets and design a strategy to (re)connect with them. Remember, networking is a two-way process though. Focus on existing networks (friends/family/(ex)colleagues/Alumni as well as your potential network – targets yet to be connected with them. Start with your existing network, reconnect where necessary, focus on being social and helpful. Then establish where you have gaps in your network and draw up a plan on how (and where) to get introduced and start meeting people at carefully mapped events/conferences/seminars/etc.

3. Be vulnerable.

Not only is it “OK” to ask people for advice, it can be a great door opener. Gone are the days when you have to be the over-confident ‘know it all’ to get a role, humility and accepting selective knowledge gaps is attractive (backed up with the initiative to fill the gaps). Asking for advice from those who know is a great personal marketing approach. Often the best way to build relationships with people whom you’d like to work with/for is to start by being vulnerable, sharing your admiration for their work, and asking for advice. Once you have understood what you want and where you’d like to do it, your next step should be seeking to connect with professionals at companies you’d love to work for, long before they have a job opening.

4. Social Media

If you are not on LinkedIn, get on! LinkedIn is not overly effective at locating top talent, and thus not used by majority of headhunters and professional recruiters in that, but it IS used to verify details and gain useful insight.

Once you are on LinkedIn, make sure your career history is accurate, upto date, comprehensive AND that is correlates to the details on your CV. Make sure your profile picture is appropriate and professional. Assume prospective employers WILL cross-check your career, WILL see which contacts you have in common and WILL seek to gain a holistic overview of your professional demeanour. Make sure published articles and papers are detailed – being seen as a thought leader is very attractive to prospective employers.

5. Beyond LinkedIn….

Social Media doesn’t stop at LinkedIn. Adopting one of the more serious Social Media platforms can have greater impact that you realise. Twitter will always be the top performer in this regard for me. Not only is it a perfect means of getting to know, understand, stalk and interact with your target prospects, it is a great and concise platform where you are able to share, create and engage with topical content whilst building the persona you desire and spreading the correct message about your professional demeanour and wider life.

I blogged about the true value of Twitter here: What’s Twitter Worth To You (Spoiler: More Than You Think). It has become my prime source of business, and saw me make over £100k in 6 months….it is even more effective as a job searching tool. But….

6. Be Aware Of Your Digital Footprint

Social Media can make your Job Search and place you at the top of the pile…but it can also break it. Before you start your job search, clean up your trail on all Social Media platforms. Check postings for spelling and grammar. Remove unprofessional photos and inappropriate comments (remember that year in Aya Napa/XXXX’s Stag Do…etc). Removing historic conversations, unless highly pertinent and appropriate for your search is a very strong move – taken in isolation, lengthy conversations can sell against you.
For more information on this, and tales of how bad a Digital Footprint can be, read here: Recruitment and YOUR Digital Footprint

7. Don’t follow your passion.

“Follow your passion” is one of the most overused pieces of career advice. Often true, but not always. Following what you are good at, (especially when most others aren’t) makes for better advice. Author Cal Newport, whose book So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. is at pains to point out that majority of people whose work/business is their passion started the work, then grew the passion. Developing skills, improving marketability and setting yourself up as (near) unique, will exponentially improve career prospects. Skills over passion.

8. Create, don’t wait.

Majority of Job Seekers are lazy. They’ll write a CV, stick it on an Internet Job Board, register with a couple of generalist ‘database’/generic recruitment agencies and wait for a call. The smarter job seeker doesn’t just sit around waiting for their “dream job” to open. They study the industry and/or field that they work within, or are looking to move into, and determine the most attractive businesses/market leaders in that field before making an approach. (See No.3, Be Vulnerable, above). Aside from picking up on latent plans within a business to recruit, by presenting a solution before the problem has been created, any designed spec or wishlist will be designed with you in mind.

Develop the concept further by writing a blog/article addressing challenges/offering solutions to the business or industry in question.

9. Aim High.

Especially with a proactive approach, but also in response to a direct job advertisement, aim high. Unless expressly dictated in an advert, drop a line to the CEO or known firing manager. Show initiative, set your concise argument out as to why you should be considered for that role in that business. Perform a SWOT analysis where relevant; tie-in relevant exposure and achievements; introduce and demonstrate your (relevant!) passions. Make the recipient smile and the next step will be a face-to-face meeting.

10. Learn how to listen, and read.

Job seekers are so caught up in conveying their message and image to the employer that they often fail to listen, or read. If applying for a role, ask yourself repeatedly if you are right for the role described. If you don’t have XYZ experience or an ABC background when both are requested, applying will not only most likely be futile, it risks being black-marked for future, more relevant opportunities.

Once you get past the first hurdle and reach a call or interview, the skill becomes listening. The art of conversation is the ability to listen, not speak. Know when to talk, when to stop talking, and when to ask questions. Practice your interview skills with an experienced interviewer.

11. Don’t present yourself as out-of-work. 

Honesty is key on any CV or application, but recognising how your experience reads is vital. Never put an end date if you haven’t finished your current role. If you have finished, consider what you have been doing since. Anything relying on your professional capability is comfortably classed as consultancy work.

12. Don’t leave mid-career gaps

Make sure your whole career is accounted for; gaps will read as unemployed, unmotivated, unable to get a job…or worse. Be aware that recent stints of ‘travelling’ may raise alarm to prospective employers.

13. Make stories.

CVs are about facts. Succinct, detailed, accurate, pointed facts. But once the process becomes discursive, tell the story of your career, and of each role. People remember stories, they make you appear human and more believable. At interview, the interviewers want to hear your tale, the story of your career, how it grew and how you developed. Again, practice it. Remember it’s a conversation. Make your interview interesting.

14. Don’t send your resume to everyone.

Challenge yourself every single time you submit a CV. Is this role really for me? I am really likely to be a top 10 contender? The digital age has made it easy to submit 100s of applications in minutes, but recruiters and employers will see through it and you will look rudderless and desperate. If you don’t take your career search seriously, and devote your time to it….you can’t expect recipients to take your career search seriously and devote their time to it. Do your research, and look for jobs that are actually seeking the skills you have. (and don’t openly copy 400 recruiters in to a poorly written speculative email riddled with typos….!)

15. Tailor your CV and your cover letter.

Generic CVs are fine for generic recruiters, but for any specific job application, or response to an approach, you should tailor your CV (and covering email) for that role and that business. A sure fire way to get rejected is to have a covering note, or CV summary selling key skills that aren’t asked for. If the role/advert has key words sought, be sure to include those key words in your CV. I rejected 350 out of 420 applications for a Polymer/Plastics Sector Sales Director role last week, all because they didn’t have the words “Polymer” or “Plastics” on their CV.

16. Be Human.

Irrespective of who the intended recipient is, they are human, so show you are likewise. An obviously bespoke, personable email/call will leapfrog your application. Spend 5 minutes checking out their social media feed. Referencing something they have shared recently will resonate highly with them, whether a trip, family holiday or just a personal event. If they have publically shared it, comment – you will demonstrate passion and time taken to research them. i.e., given my publicised love and interest in Gin, anyone referencing that, or offering to meet me ‘over a Gin’ wins favour.

17. Always follow up.

Following up CVs and approaches made is seen as an arduous task, but following the above two point, it demonstrate genuine interest in the role, as well as ensuring the recipient s takes a second look at your application. Follow-ups can also be a way to overcome initiative tests. For highly contested/high-demand roles, hiring managers and recruiters, seeking only the optimum motivated individuals, will merely consider those who have thought to follow-up – a great if clandestine way of filtering out bulk-applicants adopting a ‘spray-and-pray’ approach.

18. Think what you can do for the job.

If you apply for any role thinking “What the job can do for you”, you are starting from the wrong position. Switch to “What You can do for the role/company’. Your approach will be revolutionary, and quite obviously so. Once the job is yours,, then you can start thinking of yourself.

19. Get up once more than you fall.

Fall down seven times, get up eight. A great Japanese Kotowaza, but also very apt in your career search. Getting an optimum career move, or landing your dream job takes time, effort, and will encounter many setbacks. Make sure you take ‘failure’ as a learning experience. Counter the feedback given with improving your product offering. Whether that is down to packaging or gaining experience through intermediary jobs, internships or just asking for assistance with current employers. Every knock-back has an upside.

20. Research, Research, Research.

Mentioned in several points above, researching before applying, calls and interviews is vital if you want to make the best possible impression. Don’t just check out the business, research the interviewer. Social Media has provided an amazing platform to understand and get to know your interviewer almost intimately.

21. Nail First Impressions

“You only get seconds make a first impression” It’s an overused analogy perhaps, but never is it more true and apt that at Interview. And worryingly, the boffins at Princeton in the US have calculated you have 100 milliseconds to make that first impression. First step is to be cognizant of the impression your CV/covering email gives, but the prime test is at interview. Think about it 100 milliseconds – that’s an instantaneous snap shot of what you look like, how you are stood/sat and the insight into your personality from your facial expression. Read more on how to maximize your first impressions hereFirst Impressions. 13 tips & why you should look at your feet when meeting someone.

22. Mirror

Mirroring is a fantastic Neuro-Linguistic-Programming tool, introduced to me by Tony Robbins in his book, Ultimate Power. Trialing your first practical experience in an important interview is a little ambitious, but to mirror elements of your interviewers is a hugely powerful tool. Mirroring is a sub-conscious means of relationship building, we do it every time we walk down the street with a friend and find our steps becoming synchronized. In the interview, mirror your interviewers demeanour, language, approach and body language. If the interviewer is relaxed, echo his/her approach. If they are formal, adopt the approach. If they are sat back with a leg crossed, do likewise. Mirror their movements, they gestures. If they place a hand on the arm of their chair, do likewise. These small elements will have a subconscious impact and leave the interivewer with the feeling of comfort, connection and reassurance – they will feel like they have known you for years.

23. Don’t just say you’re proficient with IT when you just know how to use Office.

Using Office is no longer a skill to mention, it is taken as read. Only mention, and discuss IT if you are proficient in advanced elements, otherwise you will find yourself on the wrong end of a discussion about the comparative merits of Java and the difference between C++ and C# (no I don’t know either).

24. #ThinkDifferent. 

Remember the 1997 Apple slogan “Think Different”? Use it with your CV. Don’t make it too quirky, or introduce bizarre formatting, but it needs to stand out. Don’t use pre-written templates, certainly don’t just use your LinkedIn profile or the crap CV some job sites auto prepare for you. You CV is:

  1. Your sales document
  2. A window into your personality

Keep it simple (no photos/images), keep it in reverse chronological order (no summary CVs), keep it factual (so story telling)…but make it you. Your font, your achievements, your style. Your CV will probably have 10 seconds to be placed in the Yes or No pile, make every second count.

25. Chronology

CVs: Work in reverse chronological order. Most recent first. Summary CVs (or glamourously termed ‘functional resumes’) are described as a “holistic overview of skills and experience”…but in reality it means you are trying to hide something, usually unexplained gaps on their CV, typically very recent.
Interviews: Work in Chronological order (unless instructed otherwise). Start with your early career, fly through it, pull out relevant points and reasons for moves, especially positives! Give greater details, again with relevant, positive experiences and achievements. Use humourous stories sensibly.

26. Skills, not titles.

Job titles tell us nothing, they are purely subjective on how we view them and will often work against an applicant (Former “Managing Director” applying for a Operations Manager role?). Detailing skills & achievements at interview, not titles becomes essential to provide an accurate and tailored pitch as to your suitability for any given role. (and if it doesn’t you’ve applied for the wrong role). Few things are more interview shortening than someone pointing out, repeatedly, that they were a CEO 15 years ago…especially when the last 10 years has been spent in a perceptibly smaller role.

27. Rehearse interviews.

What’s easier than talking about yourself? Try it. For 15 minutes. Most people struggle to get past 5 mins. And yet, the performance they give could have the single biggest impact on their career, and their life. Get someone to interview you, ideally face-to-face so that you can practice body language and real-life responses. If you are brave enough, video yourself – then playback to assess and critique your own performance, answers, fluidity and body language. You’ll hate it….but you’ll know how to make it better next time.

If you need sample, and tough, interview questions – our interviewing guide has 20 great question, and 20 more that are a little ‘left-field’. Practiced answers to unusual questions can often win the day.

28. Confidence Vs Ego

Fine line. Business LOVES confidence. Business HATES ego. Boasting about your history, accomplishments and life wins will turn the world against you….but that is what you need to do in an interview. You need to find the balance, for you, between being quietly confident and competent, and being a ‘know-it-all’. (see ‘Vulnerable’ and Rehearsing’ points above). Standard advice….listen, use eye contact, answer specific questions and be sure to dress as to make that all important first impression.

29. Use verbs.

CVs and Interviews are all about selling. You to them, them to you. The best way to maximize the impact of that is to use verbs. they will add substance to your pitch. Which is more direct and effective: “Was the head of a B2B business” or “Managed the B2B Business?” To avoid repetition, use a thesaurus.

30. Personal CSR

People will tell you to volunteer/undertake Charity work during periods of unemployment. To me, that still looks like you couldn’t get a job. However, devoting time to Charities, and undertaking the organisation and commitment of charitable endeavours, can add hugely to your career. Non-work achievements and the message they send about your social awareness, can be hugely attractive. It will also open career doors.

31. Sell, but don’t lie.

Don’t be tempted to alter or overstate your past achievement or qualifications, regardless of the solidity of advice given (i.e. Ros Altman, Government Advisor who advocates the ‘white lie’ of altering “GCE O’Levels” into “GCSEs” to appear younger). Anything in your career that you feel you need to embellish is probably the area you either need to work on….or the area that suggests that this isn’t the right role for you.

But above all, be you. No masks, no assumptions on what execs *should* be like. Chemistry Fit is key. Let your personality shine though. It’s still your greatest asset in a Career Search.


We’re Running Out Of People….. Beating Full Employment

The UK is running out of workers. Depending on whose definition you use, we are at, or very close to Full Employment. At 4% the unemployment rate is at the lowest level for almost 50 years.

4% is even well below the current rate in historically low-unemployment countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Canada.  An all-time record 870,000 jobs are currently unfilled in the UK, with just 1.3m people classed as unemployed, and 33m people in work.

Full Employment is one of the four primary Government macroeconomic objectives (along with Price Stability (stable, low inflation), Sustainable Economic Growth and keeping the Balance of Payment in equilibrium).

Full Employment has benefits, more people in work and earning/less people out of work and not earning. Reduction in welfare payments and the upwards pressure on wages, as we are seeing now, with wages growing at almost 3.5% against inflation of 2.2%, the highest wage growth since the financial crash of 2008.

It is already clear that wage pressures are rising. Employers are reporting recruitment difficulties with shortages of skilled as well as unskilled workers, and even the usually cautious Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, commented on “compelling evidence of a new dawn breaking for pay growth”.

But there are potential problems with Full Employment. Maintenance of stable prices (i.e. Inflation gets pushed higher), a surplus on the Balance of Payments – which our exchange rate is already fuelling)….and recruitment.


The negative impact of Full Employment is never more visible than in Recruitment. Every business leader I have spoken to in the last few months has cited problems in attracting talent as one of, if not the biggest challenge and inhibitor to growth.

Basic supply and demand on the back of record number of people in work, fewer people out of work (but looking) than we’ve seen for 50 years and increasing wage costs.

The minimum wage, increased last week to £8.21/hr, ensures that anyone working 40hrs per week receives just over £17,000 per year, with their net (take home) pay tipping just over £15,000 per year. This gives employers of large numbers of lower paid workers reduced ability to offer wage incentives.

As we start to climb up the salary and skill grades, those challenges become worse with a scarcity of people looking for new roles. Three conversations last week with small UK business directors revealed they were collectively trying to recruit 20+ Web Designers, 20+ Electrical Engineers and 30+ Software Engineers; all citing that their growth plan were becoming significantly hindered by locating key talent.

Executive Search

Surely the executive level is immune? The UK has become ever more attractive to do business in, and to work as a director within. The reduction in top rate income tax and corporation tax, both leading to record tax receipts (Google ‘Laffer Curve’ if you don’t understand how that works – unless your surname is Corbyn or McDonnell), has ensured the UK is increasingly competitive for attracting both business and world leading executives.

And yet it hasn’t immunised the problem with executive appointments. The average time taken to fill an executive role has increased from 18 weeks to 24 weeks (not including notice periods). Notice period enforcement has almost doubled in the last 18 months as businesses are holding on to key executives due to the challenges in replacing them.

The best executives are not only working but have no need or interest in pro-actively looking for a new role.

We recently analysed advertisement response since January 2017. The numbers of execs actively looking for new roles enough to locate and respond to advertisements has fallen steadily in the last two years:

This has played into the hands of Executive Search – Headhunting. The proactivity of executive job searching becomes an irrelevance. Targeting those not currently looking for a new appointment is the mainstay of the 2% of the $35bn recruitment industry occupied by Executive Search. Headhunters.

Indeed, of the 5 assignments we have been mandated/retained on in the last 6 weeks, equalling almost £1 million of salaries, 4 of them had been actively (or rather pro-actively) searched for in excess of 6 months previously, either by the businesses themselves, or more commonly through a recruiter that relies on a database of active job-seeking candidates, or direct ‘selection’ advertisements.

Managing Director. Bio-Science – £150k+ Equity
Managing Director. Nutraceuticals – £150k
European Sales Director. Aerospace – c£140k+
UK Finance Director. Medical – £100- 120k
Group HR Director. Manufacturing – c£120-150k+
Sales & Marketing Director. Oil & Gas – c£100k+ Equity

Of those roles, 3 have now already been shortlisted, with the other two under search, but with over 10 people already booked in for interview with me.

The second part the above 2-year analysis confirms the trend. The number of candidates headhunted into live processes has remained upheld, and even increased in terms of quality (onward progression)

The above isn’t to say Full Employment hasn’t added its challenges. The number of offers rejected has almost doubled from 3% to over 5% as ‘buy-backs’ (current employers counter-offering with increased terms), luckily, due to the structure of a retained search process, there are always a 2nd and even 3rd choice stood in the wings.

It has made our processes more challenging and increased the number of approaches we typically make by 20%, but we have still been in a position to complete on all roles within 10 weeks, despite the industry average increasing to 24 weeks, and continuing to offer a ‘cash-back’ guarantee on that quick turn-around. But the challenges are increasing, and with increased uncertainly in the transient nature of the European labour market (especially in the UK due the ‘B’ word), it is a challenge that will continue to be a thorn in the side of growth businesses.

Please feel free to talk to us about your recruitment strategy….Don’t run out of time, or people.


First Impressions. 13 tips & why you should look at your feet when meeting someone.

You have less than 30 seconds to make a first impression”. An old adage that everyone got taught as soon as they were expected to make an impression. Is it right?

Or is it 7 seconds like my old school careers guidance counselor repeatedly repeated? (whilst wearing hush-puppies and a corduroy jacket with at least 20 pens in the breast pocket and having never actually worked outside of education….the same careers guidance counselor that stated my ideal career-path was that of a Priest).

No…..The boffins at Princeton have now informed us that we are all wrong. The amount of time it takes to make a first impression is around 100 milliseconds. To put that in context, that is the time it takes for a hummingbird to flap its wings, once. Or the time it takes to realise Celebrity Big Brother doesn’t actually contain any real celebrities.

Whether we want to admit it or not, first impressions are all about appearance….or physiognomy as it is officially termed. We love to pretend that it’s personality, intelligence, sense of humour etc that makes all the difference in human chemistry, but that first impression is all about that 100 millisecond-constructed opinion; and first impressions don’t materially alter in over 90% of cases.

Want to pass your interview? Nail the first impression. Seriously. The number of times my first impression has been altered enough to change a candidates shortlist-ability is below 10%.

It’s important then. So how do you max on that first impression? After all, 100 milliseconds isn’t much to play with.

The secret is, of course, that you have a lot lot longer, it’s just that the time you have is before you actually meet the new contact/interviewee/date. Preparation.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of the book “Executive Presence” says it is about “Polish, Grooming and ‘being well put together’…not about body shape or the clothes you wear”.

In writing her book, Sylvia surveyed 4,000 professionals, admittedly in the US, including 250 senior execs. She sought the answer of what makes a good first impression in business. The top five answers were:

  1. Looking polished and groomed. 
  2. Being physically attractive and fit. 
  3. Dressing in simple, stylish clothes.
  4. Standing Tall
  5. Looking Youthful

No real surprises there.

Being well turned out is always going to win. But also being stylish and appropriately dressed is ever more important. With business attire getting ever more casual, ‘appropriate’ is even more key (almost 50% of my clients no longer insist on a suit/tie….many instead insisting on ‘Business Casual’, especially after an initial meeting). More on that later.

Being physically fit/attractive is at odds with Sylvia’s initial comments, but I agree with the findings. Being (or at least looking as if you are) fit is critical if you are keen to make a strong first impression. The only real form of C-Level ‘discrimination’ I encounter with my clients is towards people who are significantly overweight. Right or wrong, business leaders often have the perspective that if you don’t/won’t/can’t look after your own body, you are less likely to look after their businesses. Harsh….but so is life/business.

As for ‘Standing Tall’ – I’d rather not dwell on it – there is nothing you can do about it, and it is a somewhat sensitive subject in my world…..but needless to say, height and success does have a direct correlation. The key is appearance again. If you are ‘bijou and compact’, be aware what style of clothing/body language/body shape impacts the appearance of your height.

Appearance really is everything. I asked over 70 current and aspiring business owners and business leaders a simple question of what the first thing they noticed upon meeting someone for the first time.

Non-Appearance answers centred around Authenticity, Punctuality, Hand-Shake and Energy. But by far the greatest number of answers centred around appearance. Face, Smile, Eye-Contact, Body-Language, Body-Shape along with style and appropriateness of Dress.

But the most common answer? The most judged element on meeting someone new?

Shoes. Style and cleanliness.

Comments were:Gary Chaplin

“You can tell everything about someone through their shoes”
“A heart is a window to a soul. Shoes are a window to a life”
“What shoes a women chooses to meet you tells you what she think of the meeting, and of you”.

Flippancy aside, shoes tell you a lot. The style, the condition and the cleanliness. Test the theory on the next 5 people you meet. See if the shoes match the person. Then look at what your own shoes say about you.

A contact of mine sells very high-end sports cars. £100,000 plus. I spent a few hours with him a while ago and asked him how he differentiates between people just wanting to look round a £1.5m hypercar and the ones able to buy it. I watched him all but dismiss dozens of suited, smart potential customers before ‘leaping on’ a fairly scruffy looking guy in jeans and a t-shirt. He walked out 15 minutes later having placed a £50,000 deposit on a rare car. Why him? His shoes, then his watch. No matter what clothes someone is wearing, an affluent, successful person will always know the value and benefit of good shoes, and won’t let them get into bad condition. Shoes told him everything.

More on what shoes say about you from Huffington Post here….but if you want help on your style, and on the condition of your shoes – read through to the end of this blog and I have a 2 great offers for you…..!

So away from shoes, what can we do to maximize that critical first impression, all 100 milliseconds of it? Especially in that most critical moment of career development, the first interview?

Against popular opinion and politically correctness, when it comes to First Impressions;Gary Chaplin First Impressions image is key. If you spend your life meeting people, of have an important meeting/interview, you need to evaluate and seek to control the impact of your appearance on you, on others, and the achievement of your goals.

Ultimately, as a vital part of the First Impression process, your image can be one of the biggest influencers in achieving your career aspirations. Get it right and it can help you:

  • Control what others see/perceive
  • Enhance others’ perception of you
  • Project trustworthiness
  • Inspire confidence in your abilities
  • Exude friendliness, approachability and likeability
  • Open doors to opportunities
  • Enhance/elevate your status

You therefore need to ask of yourself:

What does your current image say about you?
Is that what you want it to say about you?
Does your image project the impression that you are competent, confident, trustworthy and approachable?
Does it say you are individualistic, creative, edgy?
Or, does your image tell people you’re stressed, indecisive, overwhelmed and/or unreliable?

But it is more than just image….You need to create the right overall aura. Image is a large part of that, your immediate appearance; what you wear, how you wear it, how you look. But also important is how you hold yourself, how you act, your body language, your verbal communication style/skill and your non-verbal communication style/skill.

Together this will form a snap decision that will be unlikely to change in the subsequent 59 minutes, 59 seconds (and 900 milliseconds) of your stereotypical hour-long interview.

You have your (appropriate) dress nailed, so what about everything else?

Think about how you enter a room, office bar or restaurant to meet an interviewer (or date). Do you slip into a room with a watery smile? Or walk in with confidence? Steve Peters in the Chimp Paradox talks about the importance of kingdoms. Know yours, respect others….but never feel like you don’t belong.

Confidence is important. Feet planted, 6-8 inches apart, chest out and an upright stance and your head held high will make you feel grounded and confident…and appear so. Try it.

Eye contact is critical, establish it, hold it (no demonic stares). Adding a smile will be a welcoming, confident gesture. Even a marginal frown will appear confrontational. A former colleague of mine permanently frowned in the belief that it added to his own superiority in the game/quest of control in any meeting and boosting of confidence. The reality is, real confidence wears a smile.

[Incidentally, your target for the meeting is c80-85% eye-contact. More than that can appear aggressive (or subservient); less can appear disinterested]. 80-85% will show interest and courtesy.]

Next comes the handshake. Male or female, a firm, non-watery/non-bone crushing handshake is all you need. Palm-to-palm, grip like you are holding a pint glass, and hold for 3-6 seconds. Whilst you do that you need to speak. If it’s their office/their ‘kingdom’, let them do the introduction…but if they don’t, you need to. Keep it simple. Your name….their name…..a pleasantry. “Sarah…Gary….A pleasure to meet you.”

Next, you need a 15-25 word opener, or introduction. An opener is small talk. Comments on them, their office, the venue you are within….the subject matter is irrelevant, the tone is critical. It has to be a 100% positive comment. “Lovely offices, amazing what they have done with this building”; “What an amazing part of town, it’s years since I have been down here…” banal/happy/positive small talk conversation. Do not open with a negative about the traffic getting there, the weather, the difficulty in parking…etc

If an introduction is appropriate, think of it as a verbal business card…. Practice it. Think of your Elevator Pitch (or nowadays, your TweetPitch). These are better at 5-15 words. Practice it. Who you are, what you are, and how other people benefit. Practice it! ….avoid a fumbling, protracted introduction… “I’m a Chartered Accountant but haven’t actually practiced for some time now, I moved into insolvency but as the market……<snore>”. See the #TweetPitch Blog for more guidance on describing yourself in 5 words.

Beyond that you are into the body of any conversation/meeting (and you have lost your 90% First Impression shot at winning). Simple, straight forward conversations will always win the day. Prepare in advance, relax, be yourself but forget yourself…. But this will get picked up on another blog….

Back to First Impressions…13 summarising tips to nail it.

The clothes You Wear. Does your choice of attire say what you want? Smart enough/Casual enough? The default option of a suit is no longer a safe bet…..many business will down mark you for wearing a suit – it shows a lack of preparation for a smart/casual business (or a crap HeadHunter/Recruiter)…. Does it demonstrate competence/confidence/trust? Does it show individuality/disestablishmentarianism…or antidisestablishmentarianism [always wanted to use that in a blog]

Shoes. Voted the hottest topic. What do your shoes say about you. Style, trend, condition, relevance, cleanliness. Scruffy shoes/Scruffy approach. Cheap Shoes/Cheap Approach. Let your shoes make a statement. (see below for how, get a free professional shoe-polish, and get a discount off a new pair….!)

Reader shoe tips:
Never wear black suit/brown shoes – Vaughan Allen
Never Brown in Town” – Mark Cockshoot
Beige soles with black leather? #neverbrownintown…no tweed in town either. Strictly for shooting” – Dave Edmundson-Bird

How you wear, what you wear. Whatever you wear, make sure it fits and looks polished. The best suit will work against you if it doesn’t fit, or you slouch. The finest shoes will look dreadful if they don’t suit the clothes..or worse still, if they are scuffed and filthy. The right person can look better, smarter, more confident and more successful in jeans and a t-shirt than the wrong person in a suit. Never

Grooming. Its not just clothes/shoes. Hair, Teeth, Make-Up. Don’t get all PC and say it ‘shouldn’t matter’ – if it’s a professional environment, look professional, look like you’ve made an effort. Be clean shaven or with trimmed facial hair. Check your smell. Perfume/AfterShave there, but not powerful….and no body odour!

Piercings/Tattoos/etc. Controversial, and as with clothes, highly dependent on the environment or role you are interviewing for. Unless you are 100% convinced that tattoos and piercings will add to the interviewer’s interest in you (i.e., interviewing at The Botanist or Vin Diesel’s understudy), play safe – cover tattoos and, where possible, non-ear piercings.

Your entrance. Assert confidence, belong in that room, smile, give eye-contact, lead the greeting, start the conversation. Leave unnecessary bags (and your shopping bags..!) in the car.

Be Polite. Basic politeness and common decency goes a long, long way. No phones, no distractions. Give the other person 100% of your attention. Be warm, personable, chivalrous and generally polite.

Role-play your verbal communication. Do you speak clearly, professionally and at an appropriate pace and sound level when first meeting someone? Practice it! Aim for 80-100 words per minute. Ask a friend to role-play and look for ways you can modify your verbal communication to create an improved first impression.

Evaluate your non-verbal communication. Do you inspire confidence when you walk and when you sit. Do you look awkward in your chair. Don’t fidget but don’t still 100% still. Practice looking (and being) relaxed. Practice your handshake. Firm, not crushing. No limp wrists.

Eye-contact. Don’t skimp. Aim for 80-85%. The greater the eye-contact, the greater the perception of intelligence (according to the British Psychological Society)…although much over 85% risk tipping intelligence to psychosis.

If it’s their Kingdom, let them talk first. If you are meeting in their office/their space, let them talk first. It builds their confidence in you and demonstrates you recognise it is their Kingdom (see Steve Peters, Chimp Paradox) – it will build their trust in you. If it’s neutral ground….use your opener, but always finish with a ‘door-opener’: Ask them how they are.

Listen. Yes, even in that first new seconds/minutes, listen to what they say. Mishearing a question or being too focused in getting your points in. The lifeline they throw you in their opener could cement your future relationship.

Finally……Planning. Spend time planning for the meeting. Know the journey, leave enough time (even C-Level candidates get rejected for being late). Know you have the right building “Oh, she’s based at our other site” is not what you want to hear with 5 minutes to go. Do your research on the person (hello social media) and on the business. Research their competitors. Research the role. All of this will give calm and confidence. Take time to make sure you know the dress code, ask the HeadHunter, he will have been there more than once and should have specifically asked.

Back to the shoes

Anyone who knows me, knows of my love for Oliver Sweeney shoes. They are a true British Brand and epitomise everything above about striking the right note to bolster and make that all important First Impression. Their range fits the smartest suit to the most casual jeans/shorts. Find it here:

They will also know of my passion for, work with and role as an ambassador for the Gary Chaplin CharityRoyal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity.

Putting these two great brands together we have a great offer for anyone walking through Manchester wanting to maximize their ability to make a strong first impression – or just look good.

The Guys at the Manchester Store of Oliver Sweeney (The Avenue, Spinningfields) have generously offered to professionally polish your shoes to give you the best chance of making that sparkling first impression….in return for a donation to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity, preferably a folding donation…!

Gary ChaplinPlanning to take it to the next level?? Tim Cooper, the owner and ‘Cobbler-in-Chief’ of Oliver Sweeney has offered to give anyone who mentions my name a 10% discount off any purchase of shoes from the Spinningfields store, all in the name of maximizing your First Impression.

Finally – here is Tim’s guide to polishing your own shoes:

Hitting the Bar on Transfer Deadline Day

A quick scan through any news channel or Social Media timeline yesterday will highlight that it was Transfer Deadline Day.

For a proportion of the population, that meant it was a day filled with constantly reloading sport website pages or even more obsessively, take the day off work to watch Sky Sports.

For the remainder, the uninitiated, it’s the annual deadline where football player transfers have to be completed by a set time on a set day – this year being 3 weeks earlier than previously to ensure it closes before the Premier League starts today.

The last hours are typically madness, rushed medicals, couriers frantically delivering paperwork to authorities and even problems caused by non-accurate timepieces, such is the frenzy to recruit talent. Sports channels clear entire schedules to give uninterrupted coverage that makes the arrival of a new royal baby look positively disinteresting.

Tempers fray inside the club(s), within the agents brokering the deals and the fan base waiting outside to see if their prayers have been answered or if they must struggle on with the inferior (£Multi multi-mullion) squad they’ve been left with.

Add in a dose of common sense, and it’s verging on farcical.

This last-minute frenzy is typically fuelled by panic buying, often by clubs with pockets deeper than the deepest parts of the Mariana Trench, mixed with boards of directors desperately seeking to appease highly paid managers, ensures an aura of desperation as the deadline approaches.

Beyond 9yr old school children doing holiday homework, who waits until the last minutes of a 2 month ‘window’ to effect a crucial appointment……?

Too many businesses is the stark reality. And businesses that don’t have the financial magnitude to afford a blithe attitude towards risk and expected returns.

For these businesses, getting recruitment right is the difference between success and failure. It’s critical, has a greater performance requirement than 38 x 90min, and seldom comes with a back-up squad.

Quality Vs Speed.

In any industry, any business, quality is critical across the organisation. It’s expected by customers, (fans in the stands or commercial customers, B2B or B2C). It’s expected of products and services, it’s expected in all team members and it’s a vital component in recruitment. If quality is present, customers are increasingly likely to repeat their custom and team members more likely to remain as team members. Quality is key objective for any business. Quality of product/service is the greatest chance of repeat and retained customer, and revenue. Quality of team members, manager and leaders is easily more important still.

Just as the football manager who enters the market on Transfer Deadline Day, unsure of exactly what he/she needs, and what will truly benefit their team, is likely to be left with the left-overs of the field and imperfect fits;…so the commercial manager/business leader who recruits with little foresight and on a minute timescale is going to face diminished quality on the job market, being left accepting the best of the first half-hearted bunch offered from that first dip in the market.

People are the most important resource in any business, The quality of those people is therefore the most important aspect of ensuring a quality business. Ensuring quality in recruitment takes an element of strategic planning, of understanding true requirements and allowing sufficient time to locate, attract, secure and welcome superlative talent into your team.

Chemistry Fit.

I’ve spoken, preached, lectured, argued (and blogged, here and was interviewed on the subject here) about the importance of Chemistry Fit. It is, and will always be the most important aspect of any hire, and the backbone of my business. Skills and experience are important, but getting that chemistry fit right is the difference between a good hire and a great hire…and the difference between someone that works for the business and with the business, influences the business and benefits the business.

Ensuring fit takes time. Time during the recruitment planning, during the recruitment process and during the assessment/interviewing process. You can hope that one of the CVs the job board (populated with desperate job-seekers) or database recruiters (ditto) fires over to you within 10 mins gives that Chemistry Fit, but as the one good thing a poor manager once told me…”Hope is not a strategy”. Hope for good weather. Hope for a sporting victory. Hope for no traffic hold-ups…..but don’t introduce hope into critical recruitment.

As with football, the new signing needs to plug into the team. Member or leader, game-maker or finisher, fit is critical. On the pitch as in the boardroom, the individuals might have all the skill in the world, but if they are not suited to how the team works, they won’t benefit it.

Ensuring Chemistry Fit needs an understanding of what the existing Chemistry is, the experience and resource to seek and search for similar Chemistry in relevant environments and the skills to assess the Chemistry Fit of each candidate interviewed – and all candidates must be criteria-based interviewed for your role….more time.

Only then can you be comfortable in ensuring Chemistry Fit (and a recruiter comfortable enough to offer a 12 month post-placement guarantee….as we do…!)

Recruitment is Expensive.

“If you think hiring a professional is expensive,

try hiring an amateur….”

Sense check….. talking about the cost of commercial recruitment in a world where footballers salaries are so large, they have to be cited as weekly wages is a little amusing (There are more footballers on a salary of over £2m per year than there are company directors – see more on Footballers Vs Executive Pay here), and no recruitment fee has ever got even close to the realms of a football transfer fee.

Even in the monopoly-money world of professional football, fees are eye-watering. This year saw a transfer fee of over a quarter of a billion dollars. Against that backdrop, 20% recruitment fees suddenly seem tame in comparison.

Fees must be taken in the context of value, opportunity cost and investment. Aside from the exposure to a far greater and higher quality talent pool, and a talent pool that has no need to be sat on an active job-seeking database, the opportunity cost of undertaking recruitment internally, and doing so with a compromised talent pool, is significant.

Choose the right Headhunter and your management(s) time spent on the process will be minimised. An hour to fully scope out the role, half a day with other members of team understanding Chemistry Fit, then just interview time…and a guaranteed result.

Beyond all of that, in a world where you can spend as much on advertising a role as you would pay for a Headhunt campaign/search, value for money is clear….especially if, as we do, your Headhunter offers a cash-refund guarantee of successful delivery.

Christmas Eve.

The drama of Transfer Deadline Day is exciting (unless your club fails to land the player that you know would propel them up the table)…but it does smack of men rushing around to buy their wives’ gifts at 4pm on Christmas Eve.

With the money and resources swishing around clubs, and the army of scouts and ever talent-searching managers, the knowledge of who exists within the other 91 clubs in the English Football League (let alone who exists in the 900+ clubs in the 32 Leagues around Europe) is huge. Beyond that, the ability to see, on a weekly basis, how these professionals play/perform/fit/interact is unparalleled, certainly in the world of business. And yet Transfer Deadline Day is still fraught up until the last-minute.

Businesses are often no better. We guarantee a delivered search in just 8 weeks (against an industry average of 24 weeks), but even that it often deemed too long for some businesses. Eight weeks in a business lifecycle? To introduce transformative management/leaders?

….but our best results come from businesses who engaged us, or started to talk to me well before that instruction about their plans, their thoughts, their thoughts on human/commercial/operational strategy. We not only get the chance to input onto the staffing/talent impact and add value to the opportunities available to compliment those plans, but get to set up a watching brief for such talent…without standing on non-league club side-lines wearing sheepskin coats.

Such an approach is provided without cost, and typically only elicits a retained search mandate in around half the instances, but the value it adds is immeasurable.

Contact me to find out more….just please don’t wait until the next Transfer Deadline Day and expect a 5pm solution.






CV Tips: 20 Things to do…..20 Things to avoid!

Let’s start by blowing a myth away. The 2 page rule is nonsense. Do NOT try and fit 20 years into 2 pages by using font size 4 and margins measured in millimetres. Follow the below rules and your CV will be the perfect length, whether 1 page or 7.

Your CV is your Sales Document, it is not your opportunity to demonstrate how easily you can rival War & Peace, nor your chance to use every one of the over-4-syllable words you learnt from your word-a-day thesaurus desk calendar.

Your CV will get 20 seconds, if you are lucky, before the reader decides if you are worthy of a 2nd view, or destined for a polite (and politically correct, EU legislation appeasing) “Thanks but please don’t contact us again” rejection email.

Think of the best Sales Literature you have seen, and why it worked.  Chances are it was simple, informative, credible, accurate, factual, objective, captured your attention and told you just what you wanted to know without waffle, or children’s names.

Your CV should be the same.

A professional CV is the absolute key to a successful job search; fall at the first hurdle and you are out before the game as started. Be Relevant, Be Credible, Be Professional.

Structure should be simple. Don’t try and overcomplicate: Personal Details (and contact details!), Qualifications, Career History, Achievements, Interests.

Personal DetailsName, Contact details(!), Date of birth (controversial – see below).
Qualifications: Professional Qualifications (real ones). Masters/Post-Grads/Degrees, A-Levels/O-levels/GCSEs/etc.
Career History: Reverse chronological order, Keep it simple: What you did, where you did it, when you did it, what you were responsible for, what you achieved. No gaps, no stories, no humour. Consistent format. Relevant info only. Include facts & figures, show growth/change in % terms. Show all detail for last 3 roles/10 years, then decreasing data.
Interests: Relevant, interesting, concise. Be aware what it says about you (Fantasy Game Fanatic/Beer Ping-Ping regional champion). Chose interests which have added to your character, and where you have achieved or committed.


  1. Keep it simple. Straight and to the point
  2. Tailor your CV for each role you apply for, ensure responsibilities/achievements are relevant
  3. Use a sensible, modern font and a small to medium font size
  4. Make sure your CV gives the right impression of your skills and achievements
  5. Be positive: do not give details of anything you are not good at
  6. Focus on quality not quantity (forget 2 page ‘rule’)
  7. Be clear and concise, use note form English, not prose
  8. Use bullet points where necessary to reduce blocks of text and word count
  9. Include your Date of Birth (see below)
  10. Detail qualifications & grades, but only A Level subjects if relevant (and not O’level/GCSE)
  11. Include relevant, recognised, vocational training courses. (Don’t include LearnDirect ‘Intro to IT’)
  12. Check thoroughly for spelling and grammatical errors (don’t just rely on spellcheck)
  13. Give a brief description of each business you’ve worked for
  14. Focus on achievements, detail the (positive) impact on the organisation
  15. Ensure transferability of skills without referring to them as ‘Transferable skills’
  16. Decrease the information detailed in more distant career history
  17. Check how your CV displays on another computer AND on an iPad/Tablet
  18. Get someone who doesn’t know you to proof read. If they don’t understand, change it
  19. Assume your CV will initially be read/assessed by a 16yr school leaver in HR. Make sure key data is obvious
  20. Turn ‘track changes’ off – it will highlight all your draft mistakes


  1. Put ‘Curriculum Vitae’ as the title, use your name
  2. Forget contact details on the CV itself (be wary of Social Media ‘names’ unless content appropriate for prospective employers to read)
  3. Put a photograph on your CV (and if you must, make it from the current decade)
  4. Include your children’s names/ages/education/career objectives
  5. Include non-academic/non-professional qualifications unless relevant. No Age7 swimming awards!
  6. Include any qualification you have to explain i.e. XXXX – seen equivalent to an MBA in Liechtenstein
  7. Use inappropriate email address (Jimmy5Bellies@… Looks crass; JobResponses@… Looks desperate)
  8. Use a profile unless VERY relevant, VERY succinct & VERY accurate
  9. Summarise 20yrs achievements together then repeat in career (lose the summary – looks like you are hiding something)
  10. Use tables/Textboxes/bizarre spacing – it is unlikely to retain its formatting
  11. Try and squeeze too much on a page. 3 sensibly spaced pages looks better than 2 crammed/4 over-spaced)
  12. Actively seek to hide your age by removing dates/omitting earlier positions/tweaking qualifications
  13. Don’t use abbreviations or jargon, unless sure the recipient of your CV understands
  14. Use the word ‘I’ too much
  15. Use logos/hyperlinks – they can get blocked by email servers and/or cause formatting issues
  16. Leave gaps in timeline, if earlier career not relevant, show by title only
  17. Be negative about anything – i.e. reasons for leaving/highlighting where achievements went un-rewarded
  18. Explain why your experience is relevant, if it isn’t obvious, it won’t count
  19. Include bland interests. We can all read/swim/socialise. It isn’t noteworthy
  20. Blindly upload your CV to Job Boards/Public websites – anyone can see it

Contentious subjects

Date of Birth
The Human Rights brigade will bang on about NOT putting ages on CVs due to Age Discrimination. Age Discrimination is wrong, and the measures to avoid it are just and correct. However, the issue is discrimination over age, not the knowledge of.  If you wilfully (seek to) hide your age, it gives the impression you have the issue with your age – it also runs the risk of annoying the reader.
My advice: be straight. Be proud of your age and the experience it means you have. Stick it on (Date of Birth, NOT age).

A comparatively recent trend, telling me what you think of yourself. In theory, a great strategy; in reality, highly risky. Profiles always read too positive, demonstrating an extremely high, one-sided opinion and being wholly non-objective. CVs should be factual, objective & historical; Profiles seldom are. Even if the reader does like it, you will have a far harder task of matching let alone exceeding expectations. Furthermore, if your career history and achievements do not leave the reader with the same impression as you profiles dictates, either your achievements, or your profile are poorly written!
My advice: If you want a profile, put a factual one-line summation – an elevator pitch, or even just a Tweet size

Many will tell you that they are irrelevant on a professional/exec/C-Level CV. I disagree. The biggest challenge in recruiting talent is finding that chemistry fit (hence why human, professional head-hunters will always beat CV factories/automation…but that’s another blog). Interests give that insight into the person behind the professional; i.e. the person the reader will be working with, spending 10/12/14 hours per day with. It is also your chance to standout and/or be memorable. Your interests can demonstrate great social responsibility, charitable action, strong teamwork, natural leadership, energy, a sense of adventure, motivation etc. It also makes you seem human. If nothing else it is a conversation starter for a nervous interviewer and a way to build rapport.
My advice: Put interests down, as long as they are appropriate, give a positive message, are something notable…and can be quantified. If you have nothing notable to put down… more with your life!

We’re all going data mad protection at present.  Post Facebook/Cambridge Analytics, in the midst of GDPR and in a world that seeks to find potential areas for discrimination. However, if you are seeking to engage with a potential employer, or a headhunter to locate a potential employer, you will need to have a little a) Trust, and b) comfort inScreen Shot 2018-05-02 at 15.54.03 being open about your background. Every piece of information you chose to withhold is an area a CV reader may see as something you have an issue with. Take it too far, and the CV reader won’t have any basis for progressing you, and their default position will be reject. I had this application latter, with a one page summary CV attached. The sender refused, after two subsequent emails, to be more open about his/her background leaving me with no option but to reject. Make sure you give sufficient information for a reader to base an informed opinion.

For Pro-Bono, basic CV advice/comment, please feel free to contact me.
For more comprehensive, bespoke advice, career planning, interview training and assessment see here

CV Stats

A recent Survey amongst over 1000 HR Professionals also made the following CV recommendations:

*Incompletely or inaccurately addressed CVs and CV cover letters were rejected immediately by 83% of HR departments.
*72% of HR departments said they didn’t like (or ignored) personal profiles on CVs.
*62% of HR departments said they ignored summaries and relied on relevant information being in the body of the CV.
*68% of HR professionals admitted they didn’t read covering letters/emails.
*CVs and cover letters addressed to a named person were significantly favoured over those addressed to a generic job title by 55% of HR departments.
*63% of HR departments said that the inclusion of a photograph with the CV adversely affected their opinion of the applicant.


Why Recruitment Is Like Gin

Seemingly the world’s most tenuous subject for a blog? But bear with me. Gin really is the same as recruitment,…..

As anyone who knows me will testify, the only thing that can challenge my family and my business for space in my life is Gin.

Gin is my Kryptonite, what started as a means to drink and maintain relative fitness/clean eating (the fourth quartile of my life), quickly became a passion.

Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius, has been credited with the creation of Gin in the 17th Century, but almost 200 years earlier than that, it’s forebear Genever, was cited by British Soldiers based in Antwerp, fighting the Spanish during the Eight Year War (and where the phrase ‘Dutch Courage’ takes it’s name).

Leaving aside Gin Vs Distilled Gin Vs London Gin Vs…..etc, For most people, Gin is Gin. London Gin or Dry Gin. Gordon’s Gin has a near 40% market share, a comfortable monopoly. Add in the various supermarket own label brands and that becomes almost 70% of the market. Add in the other mass-produced brands (Greenalls/Tanqueray/Bombay Sapphire/etc) and you get to well over 95% of the market.

The UK is the home of Gin, and accounts for 70% of the global Gin export market, birthplace of London Gin and dominating the near £1bn market. Gin has also been the only spirit that has bucked the global downward trend in the sales of spirits witnessing an 8% increase in volumes, but tellingly, a 14% increase in value in 2014 alone (22% and 32% over the last three years).

But here’s where it gets interesting…. Ask any connoisseur or Gin fanatic what the Gin market really is, and it is unlikely you will get any of the above 90%+ of sales mentioned.

They will talk about the Specialist Gin market.

My Gin Shelf

The Specialist Gin market is not new. In the early 18th Century, the Gin Craze saw hundreds of micro-distilleries across London. They were soon under the cosh however. The early drunkenness and misery caused by unregulated impure Gin was at odds with the perceived well-fed workers and their foaming beer tankards (as starkly highlighted in William Hogarth’s 1751 “Gin Lane” and “Beer Street”).

Add in advancements in distillation allowing mass-production of pure spirits coupled with the discovery that quinine was highly effective against malaria, the then ‘Officer Class’ adopted ‘Tonic water Enlivened With Gin”….., pure spirits were in demand, the impure ‘back-street’ distilleries were soon no more. Following the Cocktail boom in the Jazz age, Gin was further raised to the top of ‘Fashionable Circles’ as the aperitif of choice.

15 years ago, there were very few small distilleries, but modern desires for more complex products…and the globalization brought by the internet has seen a huge resurgence.

There are now well over 1,000 specialist Gins available in this country alone, but they account for just 2% of the Gin Market. They all conform to the Gin alcohol content (min 37.5% – most are 43-48%), methanol content (5g/hl max), distillate percentage (70% min), added sugar content (<0.1g/l). They are also really quite different from each other, and very different from the big market leaders.

Why/How? Botanicals. The small flavouring elements added to the gin before redistillation. Some will have one or two Botanicals, some have 45-50 and more. Some are very scientifically added, some are foraged from Forest floors (Macclesfield’s Forest Gin).

Some are seemingly innocuous, like the apt Cheshirebased Hunters Gin – that that HeadHUNTERS CHESHIRE GINmy clients get as a gift after we have dealt together. A blend of citrus fruits and apples, but the taste is just right, very refreshing and very different. (***Now I just need to get them to do me a batch labelled “HeadHunters Cheshire Gin”***)

The outcome is a product which is technically the same, but with subtle tweaks to make it really very different indeed. More on that later.


The recruitment sector has not been around for anything like the times of the Eighty Year War. Whilst public employment agencies can date back to 1650 (Henry Robinson’s proposed “Office of Addresses and Encounters” that would link employers to workers, was rejected by the British Government) the first Private Employment Agency was established in the US in 1893 by Fred Winslow.

Gary Chaplin GinIt has likewise had its share of legal status challenges. At the same time as Gin was being affected by Prohibition, the 1933 Fee-Charging Employment Agencies Convention formally called for the industry’s abolition, the small allowable element being those businesses that were licenced by the government and where fees were agreed upfront.

Today the recruitment market is worth £28.7bn (2014) in the UK alone. Both Forbes magazine and Crains estimate the global recruitment market will exceed $450bn in 2015.

Today though, the developing recruitment market is very much following the developing Gin market.

For most people, Recruitment is Recruitment. A handful of Global Recruitment Groups lead the market with the 10 largest firms commanding a near 40% market share. Add in the next 100 international firms, and that becomes almost 70% of the market (with a third of those businesses turning over $1bn). You can see the similarity to the dominant forces in Gin.

But there’s more…..

Recruitment is Recruitment. Agencies, Recruiters,…..all the same. They hold a large database of job seekers, they get jobs to ‘work on’, and trawl their databases for relevant matches and send them over as quickly as possible. Round pegs into round holes. All boast of 10,000s of candidates on their databases, bigger ones boast of 100,000s of candidates on theirs, some will no doubt exceed that. They will also report stats of 1,000s and 10,000s of live jobs on their websites to attract active jobseekers to swell the numbers to in turn sell to their client base. It’s a perfect model…a hugely successful model! This style of Database Recruiter accounts for 98% of the $450bn recruitment market.

Much like the generic recruitment market, the 98% of generic Gin manufactures make big volumes of consistent products, bought in huge volumes by huge swathes of the population.

So what of the 2%?

If the 2% of the gin market is the domain of the Specialist Gin, what is the remainingGary Chaplin Gin 2% of the recruitment market? Retained Executive Search… a.k.a HeadHunters. The AESC quote the Executive Search market as being worth $9.74bn, 2.1% of the total recruitment market.

The Exec Search market, like the Specialist Gin market, is made up of 1,000s of small businesses. Like the Specialist Gin market, they in principle provide the same product, but their method of doing so is very different, as is the satisfaction it brings….and as is the requirement for it to be a Labour of Love and Passion above outright commerciality and economics.

Retained Executive Search businesses and HeadHunters don’t get the volume of instructions, scale of turnover, nor of profitability that the large generic recruitment businesses attain. But they do attain far higher in service metrics.

The average fill ratio, the number of jobs filled, for the recruitment sector is 22% (12% higher for temporary/contract placements). The Executive Search market averages 73% with plenty of firms attaining 100% fill ratios, like ours.

The big difference from Exec Search to Generic Recruitment is not wholly dissimilar to that between Specialist Gins and Generic Gins. The core product is the same, but the execution and components are very different, and make all the difference.

In Gin it is the distilling process, the raw materials but most of all, the Botanicals. In recruitment it is likewise the finer details that make all the difference.

Gary Chaplin GinOne of my favourite Gins is Monkey 47, so-called because it has 47 different botanicals. Yes that right, FORTY-SEVEN. Wine has one ingredient; beer has four ingredients. This gin has 47 ingredients ADDED to it.

HeadHunters have one very big difference to generic recruiters. You won’t find us talking about the size of a database. Because we don’t have one. Yes, we all have 15-25,000 contacts tucked away in the modern version of Little Black Books (iPhone/iPad/iMac/iEtc), but we don’t have databases of candidates. We don’t hold/retain CVs. Why? Because we don’t focus on active jobseekers.

It’s a sweeping generalisation, but on the whole, the best, top quality talent is not only employed, they are very well engaged, rewarded and have no need to look for a new role. They have no reason to look outside their current employer. Their employer will be more than satisfied with them, will reward them and ensure their career is as fulfilled as possible. But that’s why we, or rather our clients, want them.

In the law of averages, someone who is actively, very actively seeking a new job has a reason to do so – especially someone who is SO actively looking for a job that they stick their CV on a recruitment database, or even worse, internet job board. If leaders want the best talent for their business, they have to poach the best from someone else’s…they have to HeadHunt them. Or get me to.

But what of the Botanicals in Executive Search? Before setting up my business, I worked for 3 different search firms, and 3 different generic database recruiters.

All did broadly the same for their market.
The Recruiters had large databases, they all talked about the database being XX,XXX in size and/or being built over XX years with more live jobs that the guy next door.
The Search Firms all had research departments, all had structured selection criteria. All had very prestigious offices to wow and woo their targets.

…..But yet they were all different.

Much like the specialist gins. I have yet to find the specialist gin I didn’t like, and there are too many favourite to list, but the stand out ones include Hunters, F.E.W Insurgint, Daffy’s, No.209, Forest, Elephant, Monkey 47, Gin Mare, Fifty Pounds, Bathtub, Caorunn, Forest, Hunters, Sipsmith and last to the fold, Four Pillars. Their botanicals range from:

Orange Peel, Cassia Barl, Ginger, Lavender, Fresh apple, Elderflower, Pimento Berries….plus Baobab, the Buchu plant, Devil’s Claw, Lions Tail, and African Wormwood
Just with premium tonic – this has enough flavour

Botanicals: Juniper, coriander seeds, cassia bark and the new – Lebanese mint and rare variety lemons
 With Lime and Mint

F.E.W Insurgint
Botanicals: Juniper, blood orange, notes of guajillo peppers
 An orange wheel or twist

Hunters Cheshire
Botanicals: Citrus blend & apples
Served: With a slice of Apple or Lime Wedge

Botanicals: juniper berries, coriander seeds, Bilberries, wild Gorse Flowers, wild Raspberries, Blackberry leaf and local Moss plus a host of secret ingredients
Served: with Rosemary or a selection of berries Blue//Black/Strawberries

Botanicals: juniper berries, cassia bark, cardamom pods, bergamot orange peel, lemon peel, coriander seeds, angelica root.
Served: With a slice of Pink Grapefruit

Gin Mare
Botanicals: Juniper and Olives
with a sprig of Rosemary

Fifty Pounds
Botanicals: juniper, angelica root, coriander, liquorice root, grains of paradise, lemon and orange rind, and savoury
Squeeze of Fresh Lime or an Orange Wedge

Botanicals: juniper, orange peel, coriander, cinnamon, cloves and cardomon
Shave of Lemon Rind

Botanicals: Floral chamomile, honeysuckle. underpinned by juniper
With a few Strawberries, Raspberries & Blueberries

Botanicals: Coul Blush apple and rowan berries
with a slice of Apple or a (thin) slice of Red Chilli Pepper

Botanicals: Juniper, citrus (mostly lemon peel) and spice
with a squeezed Lime Wedge

Four Pillars
Botanicals: Juniper, lemon myrtle and Tasmanian pepperberry leaf
With a large Orange Wedge

Monkey 47
types of pepper, Acacia, Acorus Calamus, Almond, Angelica, Bitter Orange, Blackberry, Cardamom, Cassia, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Citron Verbena, Cloves, Coriander, Cranberries, Cubeb, Dog Rose, Elderflower, Ginger, Grains Of Paradise, Hawthorn Berries, Hibiscus Abelmoshus, Hibiscus Syriacus, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Kaffir Lime, Lavender, Lemon, Lemon Balm, Lemongrass, Licorice, Lingonberries, Mondara Didyma, Nutmeg, Orris, Pimento, Pomelo, Rose Hip, Sage, Sloe, Spruce…etc
Just straight (plenty of flavours already) or a Cinnamon Stick.

<<Over 200 more favourite Gin Serving tips below…..>>

The difference between the gins, above and below is technically (and chemically) minor, perhaps miniscule, but it makes all the difference.

BUT…..It doesn’t make one better outright, it just makes them different, and thus better for some people, and certain times, with certain objectives.

Likewise with Executive Search. I can put a great argument forward why my business is best. Our risk free/cash-back guarantee on delivery timescales. Our unparalleled 12 month post-placement guarantee. Our focus and ability to assess Chemistry Fit…

…..But my blend of services, style and methods; my “Botanicals” will appeal to some, at the right time; but not to others; and other times. The blend has to be right for them, at the time, for that role.

Much as we can all choose one gin one night, and another gin the next night, depending on our mood, location, etc…so a client company, or an executive open to a new role and challenge can understand and chose what Botanicals are right for them. A key aspect is to try the specialist, rather than just automatically settling for a Gordons because you don’t know what else is out there.

Epilogue – Origin of the Species?

A bottle of Gin I got given this week develops the theme, and the experience offeredGary Chaplin Gin one step further. Origin Gin is a Juniper ONLY Gin, but it comes with a small vial of Botanicals so that the drinker can tailor the experience to their own palette.

I floated the same concept past a former employer, a larger search firm. More accurately tailor our approach, our service and our terms to our clients’ wishes. The response at the time was that our heritage and proven methodology meant that we knew our industry best. If a business wanted to work with us, they bought into our service, our methodology and our terms.

Origin is the boutique HeadHunter – small and lithe enough to tailor the approach and the product base (and the terms) to client requirements. Three times this year, I have been engaged not to run a full process, but just to fill in the part of an in-house process that the businesses in question didn’t feel perfectly suited to do. For two it was interviewing, for the other it was sifting through 300+ CVs and compiling a longlist for them to process.

More Favourite Gins/Serving Tips:


1897 Quinine Gin
Served: Lime
58 Gin
Served: Lemon Peel
6 O’Clock Gin
Served: Lemon
7 Dials Gin
Served: Rhubarb or Clementine Peel
Ableforth’s Bathtub Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Cinnamon
Adnams Copper House Gin
Served: Orange Peel
Adnams First Rate Gin
Served: Lemon or Thyme
Anno Gin
Served: with a Sprig of herbs. Thyme or Samphire if you can find it!
Arcturus Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Samphire
Aviation Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Lemon
Barra Gin
Served: Grapefruit or Rosemary
Bath Gin
Served: Lime or Kaffir Lime Leaf
Beckett’s Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Mint
Bedrock Gin
Served: Lime & Basil or Lemon Peel
Beefeater 24 Gin
Served: Grapefruit or Black Pepper
Beefeater Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Lime
Berkeley Square Gin
Served: Juniper Berries or Basil
Bertha’s Revenge Gin
Served: Orange Peel
Bimber Gin
Served: Lime or Lemon
Blackdown Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit or Mint
Blackdown Sussex Dry Gin
Served: Small slice of Rhubarb
BlackWater Gin
Served: Lime. Cinnamon Stick…or try a Vanilla Pod!
Blackwoods Gin
Served: Thyme or Orange Peel
Bleu D’Argent Gin
Served: Lemon Zest
Bloom Gin
Served: Mint or Strawberry
Bluecoat Gin
Served: with a slice of Orange
Boatyard Double Gin
Served: Grapefruit
Bobby’s Gin
Served: Orange & Cloves
Bogart’s Gin
Served: with a slice of cucumber
Bombay Sapphire Gin
Served: Lime
Boodles Gin
Served: Lemon
Boxer Gin
Served: Orange Peel, Bergamot Peel or Cucumber
Brecon Botanicals Gin
Served: Lemon
Brecon Special Reserve Gin
Served: Lime Zest
Brighton Gin
Served: Orange
Brilliant Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit
Brockman’s Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Any Forest Fruit
Broken Heart Gin
Served: Orange, Rosemary or Lemon Peel
Brokers Gin
Served: Just with a wedge of Lime
Brooklyn Gin
Served: Orange, Lime or Thyme
Bulldog Gin
Served: with a cinnamon stick (let infuse for 10 mins)
Burleigh’s Gin
Served: with a shave of orange peel or slice of pink grapefruit
By The Dutch Gin
Served: Orange and Bay Leaf
Caorunn Gin
Served: Red Apple or Fresh Chilli
Caspyn Gin
Served: Orange Peel
Caspyn Midsummer Gin
Served: Cucumber
Chilgrove Gin
Served: With a Twist of Lime OR Sprig of Mint
Citadelle Gin
Served: Slice of Orange or Star Anise
City of London Gin
Served: Slice of Pink Grapefruit
Collagin Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit
Colombo No. 7 Gin
Served: Lemon Peel or Curry Leaf
Colonsay Gin
Served: Orange Peel
Conker Gin
Served: Lime Zest
Copperhead Gin
Served: Orange
Cotswolds Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit
Crossbill Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Orange
Curio Gin
Served: Fennel, Lemon Peel or Samphire
Da Mhile Botanical Gin
Served: Lemon or Lime
Da Mhile Seaweed Gin
Served: Lemon
Daffy’s Gin
Served: with a sprig of mint & Lime wedges or a shave of lemon peel.
Darnley’s View Gin
Served: Lime
Deaths Door Gin
Served: with a slice of Blood Orange
Dingle Gin
Served: Lemon or Lime
Diplome Gin
Served: With a Shave of Grapefruit peel
Dockyard Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit or Rosemary
Durham Gin
Served: with a slice of apple
Echlinville Gin
Served: Lemon or Mint
Eden Mill Hop Gin
Served: Lemon
Eden Mill Love Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit or Berries
Eden Mill Original Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Lemon
Edinburgh Gin
Served: Orange Peel
Elephant Gin
Served: Apple or Cinnamon
Esker Gin
Served: Orange or Grapefruit
F.E.W American Gin
Served: Wheel of Fresh Orange.
F.E.W Insurgint Gin
Served: Orange Zest
Fifty Pounds Gin
Served: Lime or Mint
Filliers Gin
Served: Lemon or Lime
Fishers Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit or Lemon
Fords Gin
Served: Grapefruit or Lemon
Forest Gin
Served: Rosemary or Raspberries
Four Pillars Gin
Served: Orange or Pink Grapefruit
Foxdenton 48 Gin
Served: Lime or Black Pepper
Fresha Gin
Served: Black Pepper or Strawberries
G’Vine Gin
Served: Grapes
Galway Gin
Served: Lemon or Basil
Geranium Gin
Served: With a shave of Pink Grapefruit (or Geranium Flowers!)
Gilpin’s Gin
Served: Orange Peel
Gilt Gin
Served: Lemon
Gin Mare
Served: Basil or Rosemary
Gin Sul
Served: Rosemary or Lemon Zest
GlenWyvis Gin
Served: Orange & Coriander
Greenall’s Gin
Served: Lemon Zest or Lime
Griffiths Brothers Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Bay Leaf
Half Hitch Gin
Served: Orange Peel
Hayman’s Gin
Served: Lemon or Lime
Hedgehog Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit
Helsinki Gin
Served: Rosemary
Hendrick’s Gin
Served: Cucumber or Lime
Hidden Curiosities Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit or Pink Peppercorns
Isfjord Gin
Served: Orange Peel
Isle of Harris Gin
Served: Grapefruit Peel or Orange
Japanese Gin
Served: Apple, Rosemary or Pink Peppercorn
Jawbox Gin
Served: Lime or Mint
Jensen’s Gin
Served: Lemon
Jensen’s Old Tom Gin
Served: Rosemary
Jinzu Gin
Served: With a slice or Apple or shave of Orange Peel
Juniper Green Gin
Served: Lime or Juniper Berry
Junipero Gin
Served: Lime or Lavender
Kew Organic Gin
Served: Grapefruit or Lime
King of SoHo Gin
Served: With a slice of Pink Grapefruit
Kirkjuvagr Gin
Served: Orange Peel
Kokoro Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit or Lemon Zest
Langley’s Gin
Served: Grapefruit or Basil
Langley’s Old Tom Gin
Served: Clementine or Orange
Langtons No.1 Gin
Served: With a slice of Lemon (or shave of Lemon Peel)
Larios Gin
Served: Lemon
Listoke 1777 Gin
Served: Orange Peel
Little Bird Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit
Liverpool Gin
Served: Orange or Mint
Loch Ness Gin
Served: Vanilla Pod or Kiwi Fruit
Makar Gin
Served: Lemon, Rosemary or Green Chilli
Malfy Gin
Served: Thyme or Lemon Zest
Manchester Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit
Manchester Three Rivers Gin
Served: Cherry or Rosemary
Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength
Served: Lime
Martin Miller’s Gin
Served: With a sprig of Mint or Pink Grapefruit
Masons Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Pink Grapefruit Peel
Mean Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Orange
Melbourne Gin
Served: With a slice of Pink Grapefruit
Monkey 47 Gin
Served: On it’s own….plenty of flavour already!
Mr Hobbs Gin
Served: Orange Peel
Napue Gin
Served: Rosemary & Cranberry
NB Gin
Served: Orange Peel
Nicholson Gin
Served: Lemon Peel or Rhubarb
No. 209 Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit
No.3 Gin
Served: with Frozen Raspberries
Nordes Gin
Served: Lime or Mint
Old Bakery Gin
Served: Lemon or Mint
Old English Gin
Served: Lemon
Opihr Gin
Served: Ginger (and try with Ginger Ale)
Orkney Johnsmas Gin
Served: Lime, Orange or Apple
Orkney Mikkelmas Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Ginger
Oxley Gin
Served: Lime or Cucumber
Pickering’s Gin
Served: With a slice of Pink Grapefruit or Lemongrass
Pin Gin
Served: Strawberry, Lime or Cinnamon
Pinckneys London Dry Gin
Served: Lime or Grapefruit
Pink Pepper Gin
Served: Lemon Zest or Lavender
Pinkster Gin
Served: With Fresh Mint (Spank the mint first)
Plymouth Gin
Served: With a Slice of Lemon and Blackberries
Poetic License Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit
Portobello Road Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit Peel or Juniper Berries
Pothecary Gin
Served: Grapefruit or Orange Peel
Psychopomp Woden Gin
Served: Grapefruit
Rock Rose Gin
Served: with a shave of Orange Peel or Sprig of Rosemary
Roundhouse Gin
Served: Small shave or twist of lemon peel
Sacred Gin
Served: Grapefruit or Rosemary
Salcombe Gin
Served: Red Grapefruit
Sarabande Gin
Served: Lemon Peel or Grapefruit Peel
Scapegrace Gin
Served: Lime
Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin
Served: Lime or Orange
Seven Dials Gin
Served: Rhubarb or Clementine Peel
Sharish Blue Magic Gin
Served: Apple or Raspberry
Shortcross Gin
Served: Slice of Orange
Siegfried Gin
Served: Lemon Zest or Grapefruit
Silent Pool Gin
Served: Orange Zest
Sipsmith Gin
Served: Lime or Juniper
Sipsmith VJOP Gin
Served: Lime or Coriander
Sir Robin of Locksley Gin
Served: Pink Grapefruit
Skin Gin
Served: Orange Peel & Rosemary
Slingsby Gin
Served: Grapefruit Peel or Lavender
Sloane’s Gin
Served: with a Slice of Orange
Spirit of Hven Gin
Served: Lemon Zest or Juniper Berry
Spitfire Heritage Gin
Served: Orange Zest or Salted Capers
St George Terroir Gin
Served: Rosemary
St Giles Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Orange
Star of Bombay Gin
Served: Orange Peel
Strane Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Lemon Zest
Strathearn Classic Gin
Served: Grapefruit
SW4 Gin
Served: Lemon or Pink Grapefruit
Sylvius Gin
Served: With Star Anise
Tann’s Gin
Served: With a Raspberries
Tanqueray 10 Gin
Served: With a slice of Grapefruit
Tanqueray Gin
Served: Lime or Orange Peel
Tarquin’s Gin
Served: Lime or Thyme
Tarquin’s Seadog Gin
Served: Lime
The Botanist Gin
Served: with Sprig of Thyme and a Slice of Lemon
Thin Gin
Served: Orange, Lime or Strawberry
Thomas Dakin Gin
Served: With a orange zest and flat leaf coriander
Tiger Gin
Served: Orange
Tinker Gin
Served: Pear
Twisted Nose Gin
Served: With a slice of Pink Grapefruit
Two Birds Gin
Served: Cucumber or Lime
Underground Spirits Gin
Served: Orange
Ungava Gin
Served: Grapefruit or Lemon Zest
Warner Edwards Gin
Served: Slice of Apple
West Winds Gin
Served: With a Cherry Tomato
West Winds Gin (The Sabre)
Served: Lemon, Grapefruit or Basil
Whitley Neill Gin
Served: with a slice of orange
Wicked Wolf Gin
Served: Lime or Lemon & Thyme
Wight Mermaids Gin
Served: Samphire, Apple or Cucumber
Wild Island Botanic Gin
Served: Lemon Zest or Lemon
Williams Gin
Served: Lemon Zest & Ginger
Wint and Lila Gin
Served: Orange Peel or Mint
Served: Lemon or Raspberry
Xoriguer Mahon Gin
Served: Lemon or Thyme



My Specialist Gins

My Specialist Gins

Recruitment Grid Girls?

Last week signalled the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote in the UK, thanks to Manchester’s Emmeline Pankhurst. A landmark moment in sexual equality, arguably THE greatest landmark in UK history. It paved the way for the first sitting female MP in 1919, and the first female Prime Minister in 1979, all of which stand as watershed moments in female equality and empowerment.

The week before, under the same equality banner, Formula One announced it was banning ‘Grid Girls’ (cocktail-dress adorned models, employed to promote F1 sponsors before/after each high-profile race). Formula One and other supporters of the move defended this action by saying it was ‘not appropriate in an equal society’ as it objectified women.

Are these two bookend actions the same….or diametrically opposed? Certainly those who have criticised the Grid Girls, typically from outside the sport would say they are the same, however, the Grid Girls themselves, now vocally highlighting their new unemployed status, would vehemently disagree saying the move is ‘do-good actions of the ignorant, and the opposite of equality’.

Back in 2009, there was a cry for more ‘Women on Boards’. Partly from those aspiring ‘women in business’, but mostly from outside. The parallels are not wholly dissimilar to the Grid Girls story. The intentions were correct, but the understanding of the real issues were largely missed. And missed comprehensively. We had demands for quotas, penalties and legislation to forbid all-male boards.

The bandwagon was jumped upon, and an entire industry was born out of the move, Lord Davies was commissioned and decided on an arbitrary figure of 25% female representation on boards, initially for ‘top-150’ businesses, then quickly realigned to the FTSE-100.

Many within the executive search sector were critical of the faux focus (me included – see here: ), saying it would be smoke and mirrors, especially those of us who already had well over 25% of our placements going to female candidates.

8 years later, 3 years past Lord Davies’ magical target date of 25% female representation on FTSE-100 and we’ve hit 27%, and now moving the focus to 30% or 33%.

Positively, there are now NO all male boards in the FTSE-100, and just 19 in the FTSE-250. This compares to 21 all male boards across the FTSE-100
at the time of the initial Davies report (131 in the FTSE-250).

Great news. Well done Lord Davies.

Women now sit in 294 of the 1,062 FTSE-100 board positions, and a pleasing 26% of all board appointments in those firms from the last year have been female.

(There is a ‘but’ coming here….)

This success is not the success that Lord Davies is claiming. Aside from the volatility in percentage female appointments (the number of female appointments fell every year bar one since 2013), there is a huge elephant in the room…. The figures are being fudged, in the same way as in every quota-led country.

In 2009, 18.1% of FTSE-100 executive committee members were female. In April 2013 that was 15%. Today, only 9% of executive committee members are female half of the 2009 level.

How is that possible when total numbers have more than doubled from 12% to 27%? Easy…..businesses have done exactly what I predicted they would do six years ago….. fudge the figures as if it was a statutory quota – they have merely employed females into Non-Exec Roles, employed Golden-Skirts’….or worse still, ‘created’ NED roles merely to tick a box.

Even Lord Davies threw the towel in, admitting in January 2014 that the only way to get to his magic, arbitrary set 25% was through non-execs. Classic politico objective of ‘hit the target regardless of the real impact’?

Last year, 46% of the people I put into new roles were female. Not a single role was ‘created’ for a women. Not a single role was adapted for a woman. Only one was a Non-Exec (and it was a Non-Exec Chairman role). Not a single one of those women had specifically been coached to get a role, nor were they the ‘token inclusions’ on a forced shortlist. The women that got those roles for one simple reason. They were the best Man for the job.

I said six years ago….. that by far the biggest issue in getting increased female representation was supply, not demand… I still maintain that, except it has now arguably got worse, not better. It’s not got worse because women are less suitable, no, it has got worse because less women want the role – but more males and women not-in-business are telling them that they should do (See unemployed Grid-Girls for paradoxical similarities).

Even the feeding ground of the FTSE-250 has seen a similar shift in great headlines but shocking statistics. The number of female executive directors is down to a staggering 7% (with total female Directors numbering just over 20%). All this despite immense political posturing, media attention and point scoring highlighting the ratio of women in everything from the competing sides of the House of Commons to front line armed forces rather than focusing on, or even discovering the real reasons for the disparity.

Female Exposure. Not what you think.

I have exposure to more senior executives, and more female senior executives than most people. No female has ever complained about un-modernised workplaces or un-level playing fields being a hindrance to female career progression and ascension to the board. Only one female has ever commented on even a remotely anti-female attitude to board recruitment – and that was solely the personal attitude of a Manchester PLC’s CEO, and thus she didn’t spit her dummy out, she just left and joined a different business.

Think of the Children

It is at this point that unimaginative Women on Boards campaigners throw the ‘Child-Care’ grenade in. Cost of childcare is a prohibiter to a lot of things. Certainly to the lone or second parent going to work it is expensive, but at c£50 for a 10 hour day, subsidized with 30 hours per week free PLUS childcare vouchers (allowing the employed couple to cover £500 per month of the remaining costs from Gross salaries), the cost of childcare isn’t really that great for a high-earning professional couple with a dual career path to a main board.

Furthermore, the average age a female graduate has her first child is 35yrs old. For qualified female professionals that becomes 37. A future FTSE-100 main board-director will be very close to at least operational board level, or FTSE-250 board level by the time they are 37. They will certainly be earning well into £6-figures. The cost of even full-time childcare is a minimal financial consideration for such a demograph.

The argument then develops into the ‘Biological Grenade’ – the prejudice against women that take their 6/9 month maternity leave out of the work place. This is an issue, especially within certain environments – however, again using the reasons in the above paragraph, a fully-career-focused female, by the time she gets to 37, will [from my direct and personal experience] be suitably valued and have such career momentum that [they will ensure] such a break will have minimal impact on a genuine, future FTSE-100 Board Director’s ascension.

Such research is backed up by Sylvia Ann Hewlett (Leading economist and expert on gender and workplace issues). Her research primarily states that a woman who took more than 2 years off lost 18% of her earning power and lost momentum with her career…however up to 12 months away had no effect on earnings, or career prospects whatsoever.

So….If childcare and childbirth are of minimal impact to the top-flight execs that Lord Davies is targeting. What is the issue??

The primary part of the issue, again from my direct experience, is attitude. Throughout scholastic environments, females outperform males. Ditto in Further and Higher Education. Even in professional qualifications, pass-rates are typically higher for females than for males…..however the numbers entering professional qualifications starts biasing towards males.

Even at this stage, aspirations begin to take effect. Everyone differs, but the differences between genders becomes very noticeable.

Last year, the Telegraph conducted a survey amongst new graduates. Over 40% of male respondents aspired to take home more than £100,000 per year, only 16% of females did.

At the opposite end of the scale, 19% of females would be happy earning £30,000 with no aspirations to earn more whereas only 10% of men would be.

Other findings from the same survey? M Vs F?
Running your own business: 22% Vs 16%.
Becoming a CEO? 26% Vs 3%.
Swapping a 4-day week for a C-Level career? 16% Vs 38%.

This difference in ambition sets the two genders off on different paths at the age of 21. An overly bullish ‘do what it takes’ attitude is far more prevalent in men, the more humanistic balance between life and work being more prevalent within women… both having an impact higher up the corporate ladder – but which demeanour is correct?

There are a huge variety of reasons why females are less likely to aspire to climb to the highest ranks. Motherhood is unquestionably one of them. I have seen even the most career-focused professionals (male & female) suddenly have their priorities dramatically shift once a baby arrives – and quite rightly/understandably so. Every person is different….not everyone can be a Marissa Mayer, appointed CEO of Yahoo! at 6 months pregnant, took 45 minutes maternity leave, set to take home over $100m over her first five years employment.


Attitude and desire still fits in hugely. Three years ago I interviewed a female FTSE-100 CXO with a view to considering her for a FTSE-100 CEO position. She was perfect for the job. Natural-risk-aversion, complementary sector, perfect skills-match and great chemistry fit with the rest of the board. However she immediately ruled herself out. Why? She just didn’t need the hassle. She had no need to turn her £7-figure annual remuneration into a larger £7-figure remuneration and certainly didn’t need the increased stress, hassle and intrusion into her life. Her quote? “I don’t need the Ego-trip of becoming a CEO”

And therein lies one of the current biggest issues behind what I believe is the lack of supply to get women to C-Level. Women (typically) don’t need the Ego-Trip, at least as much as men. Career focus, professional capability and ability to perform are right up there…..but the need to balance life is just that little bit greater. As the lady mentioned above stated – her then current CEO had media camped outside the gates of his house for more than a month, she didn’t need the ego-trip or increased remuneration as much as she needed the relative anonymity for her, and her family.

Is that their weakness though? Or their strength?

As the role of a C-Level exec becomes more stressful and far more public (open the business pages of any broadsheet and there will be some story about some exec pay/exec performance/shareholder revolt argument…), so people of both genders are turning their back on large Corporates, especially those who crave a ‘life’ and take responsibilities as a parent to heart.

This move explains the increased prevalence of former corporate (future) execs becoming entrepreneurs, never more so than with females.  The number of female entrepreneurs, setting up businesses has rocketed in the last 8 years to well over 50%.

The Babson report highlighted that, in 1999, 13% of Start-Ups were started by females. In 2012 that was 45%…and is now over 50%. The average age of the female entrepreneur?  38 yrs old….. just one year older than the professional females average age of new motherhood. Coincidence?

So perhaps motherhood does have an impact on some women’s corporate career prospects, however much of a fully personal choice it is…..but don’t assume the output is all floral dresses and home-bake parties.

…..and what is more valuable to society? Female’s making up 25% of running large businesses? Or females setting up their own business and really adding to society. Or is the mix of the two really quite equitable and beneficial?

Grid Girls

The criticism and crux of the issue over the Grid Girls was the (perceived) objectifying of women, even if the women in question did not consider themselves to be objectified). This was on the heels of the removal of Darts ‘walk-on-girls’, the Presidents Club debacle and more locally, a Digital Award ceremony which received national condemnation for having professional Burlesque dancers as entertainment.

It becomes a dangerous message to send though, and one that risks undoing the positive work the Women on Boards has done. Last month, we were handling a Sales Director role for a Digital business. 4 out of 5 interviewees were female, all performed well at interview, but the desire was to trim the selection down to 3 for second interview. The male had underperformed, but when reviewing the feedback for the 4 females, one was comparatively weaker in a couple of areas but was also a very attractive and younger lady.

The (female) CEO of the business expressed her concern over the message that would be sent out to their client base of sending a young, attractive women out to sell, especially in light of the current objectifying claims (and even more so as many of their target clients had been attendees and vocal opponents of the Burlesque entertainment mentioned above).

In this case, her looks were not the reason for her rejection, but if such a move continues, how long will it be before women’s rights campaigning actually cost a women her job?

The corporate landscape needed to evolve, but like it or not, running a £bn+ business is never going to be conducive to optimising family life, that is one of the reasons why the average FTSE-100 Executive Director earned £1,121,700 last year, and the same again in vested LTIPs. It is also why divorce rates are almost double the national average for FTSE-100 exec directors. If it was easy, everyone would be there.

It needs to be understood why we want Women on Boards, and in business. The impact females have on business is well documented, and so compelling that few businesses wilfully ignore the issue.

Propagating large business with female non-execs serves no-one, and this is where all the cited successful women-in-business supporting nations find themselves. (unless we want to see Norwegian style ‘Golden Skirts’ like Mimi Berdal who was Non-Exec for 90 different businesses – all of which got to tick a box, but only realistically have a ‘women on their board’ two days per year.)

What the answer is not to force anyone to deviate from their chosen path whether they wish or do not wish to be a FTSE-100 exec, or a Grid Girl.

The answer is to improve the supply, ask women in business what is important to them, what would attract them into business.…and improve who ‘corporates’ choose to locate that supply. If I can fill over 50% of executive roles with women, why do others struggle to forcibly place 1 in 10?

….and by propping up numbers by creating token female NEDs, are women on boards any different to motorsport’s Grid Girls?

Life’s a Beach: 14 ways to engage your team through summer (before they call me)

I’m lucky enough to have just come back from a sunny, summer holiday. There are a myriad of reasons why holidays/vacations are a good thing. Rest & Recuperation, IMG_3823spending quality time with family, de-stress your daily life, recharge your professional batteries…..few things are more pleasurable than standing in a warm sea, with your child/ren holding your hand knowing the most arduous decision you will have to make that day is beer or cocktail or which restaurant to eat in that evening.

But for recruiters there is another reason to love summer holidays… signals the start of one of the busiest seasons in the recruitment calendar. Employees return from holiday (and the idyllic demeanour they have enjoyed there) with renewed vigour to look for new roles, in an effort to replicate the tranquility they have been reminded exists whilst in sunnier climbs. The recruitment market typically goes crazy.

For the majority of employees, the return to home brings at least a degree of disconsolation. It signals the return to normality, return to (usually) worse weather….but for most, the biggest hit is that it signals the return to work. Little wonder that it also creates a spike in calls to recruiters and headhunters.

Bad news for employers? Not always. Change is good, but a lot of employers could be doing more to ensure employee summertime engagement.

Most employers are great at getting into the festive spirit at Christmas. Parties, festive drinks, Christmas jumper days, themed challenges and schemes to allow for yuletide allowances in return for key objectives being hit. And yet most will scoff at the notion of adopting something similar to focus employees and maintain productivity over Summer….and may give employees a more enjoyable experience at a time when staffing levels are lower and employees spend more time dreaming of the beach and of drinks in the sun.

Most employers, however, are inept at countering such morale and often unwilling to adopt more warm-weather seasonal working practices. I asked a well known CEO yesterday about this. His response “My employees don’t work longer hours in the dark evenings, why should I provide shorter hours in the lighter evenings – lets stick to standard hours so everyone knows what they are doing”.

Others are less draconian. I asked various friends and contacts about their summertime flexibility to increase employee engagement. Dave Kerpen, CEO of NYC-based agency, Likeable told me they allow a 2pm finish on a Friday. Does everyone take it up? No – but they don’t need to for it to work! Michael Finnigan, CEO of i2i likewise provides flexibility…he says “It’s all down to Trust. Delegation. Accountability.”

Dave Edmunson-Bird reiterated that attitude – “It’s less about hours and more about productivty. We encourage early starts and earlier finishes.”. I caught Jonathan Bowers, MD at UKFast at the end of their ‘Beach Week’ “Plenty of Hawaiian Shirts and Bermuda Shorts”….and a sunny workplace outlook to go with it!

The most common flexibility afforded to employees in summertime is ‘Summer Hours’, as adopted by Dave Kerpen. Typically this means the ability to finish early on a Friday, anything from 12 noon, as long as all work/tasks are concluded!

IMG_3830Whether time given has to be banked earlier in the week, rotated to ensure the office is not left unmanned at any point, or just given, the ability to provide some flexibility is a vote winner with employees. I asked 20 employees what summer flexibility would appeal. Every single one gave some form of hours/time flexibility as the main pull.

But such flexibility is still very much in the minority, in the UK at least. Why? The fear of lost productivity….and yet over two-thirds of businesses that do allow an earlier finish on a Friday as part of ‘Summer Hours’ report an increase in productivity because of it.

…But what else can be done to improve employee engagement during summer, diminish the chance of an exodus once the holiday flights return, and perhaps even increase productivity?

  1. Recruit Interns/Vacation Employees – Having extra bodies around the office is a great way to add energy, and provide cover at a time when 10% of your workforce are likely to be away on annual leave. The summer being prime availability for Interns and ‘Summer Job’ applicants, the attraction becomes easier too. Add in the opportunity of finding your new start employee through an internship or similar – it’s a no brainer.
  2. Avoid Senioritis. Even the most motivated person needs a refresh. Summer is an ideal time to introduce new thoughts and new initiatives. Try introducing books to all employees appropriate for their role, or use the summer period to engage employees on training courses on/offline.
  3. Adopt/Trial new working initiatives – Teleworking, Telecommuting, Virtual Meetings, work-from-home-Fridays and others. Change appeals to employees and can often have a positive impact on productivity.
  4. Change the targeted focus. JobSite reported that the biggest reason for workplace ‘slacking’ is the lack of challenge. Increasing responsibilities and challenge over summer, even as interim cover for management holidays can prove a big difference. Likewise, tailoring deadlines, where feasible, to fit in pre-holiday will increase relevant productivity.
  5. Change/Scrap ‘months’. Any sales business that targets and rewards on monthly performance/commissions will lose employee engagement for at least a month, even if employees only go on holiday for a week. Missing a week of a targeted month often cause employees to write-off the whole month. Change summer target slots to reflect and maximize time around holidays.
  6. Take it outside. Meetings can be the greatest motivational tool around, yet can also be the greatest motivation sapping tool. Choose meetings carefully, and where possible, hold meetings outside or even over a walk. Designate a day per week as a Meeting-Free day. Even better, organise an outdoor team event.
  7. Accept client holidays. Clients/Customers take holidays. Many sectors are all but shut for the month of August. Accept they do…plan around it. Focusing on shorter term wins and deal opportunities will give increased activity, and increase the chance of deals being done before holidays.
  8. Understand generational differences. Employees all have difference drivers. Generation X typically want clear objectives and management opportunities. Millennials on the other hand typically value flexibility and respect. Everyone has different motivational triggers.
  9. Scrap Monday Morning/Friday Afternoon deadlines & meetings. Active weekends more than double in summer months. Remove needless weekend-invading meetings through poor scheduling.
  10. Musical Chairs. May sound flippant, but move the office around for summer. Let those who want to be nearer windows, be so. Those who want to avoid screen glare, do so. Respect the air-conditioning – one of the most common summertime office arguments is an office being too hot or too cold….use seating positions intelligently.
  11. Incentive using the right contests. Use summer events or activities to drive productivity. A client of mine runs a Glastonbury contest every year. Visual displays chart achievement/ranking; mini events tie in with the bands booked….and tickets are on offer for the ‘winners’. Same client does the same thing with Sporting events. Crucial aspect; get team engagement to ensure it’s their dream ticket, not just yours.
  12. Let employees plan employee events. Businesses use summer to have employee/family BBQs or away days. Listen to what employees want to do. Hosting a Saturday afternoon BBQ because you want it doesn’t mean your employees will relish the intrusion into their weekend.
  13. Let annual rewards reward effort, not achievement. Scrapping an annual business event/dinner/BBQ/retreat just because company-wide performance dips is a sure-fire way to see motivation and ongoing performance dip. Scale back an event, but reward and thank employees (and families) regardless.
  14. Re-dress. Allow dress concessions. The UK is still needlessly obsessed with business dress. Enforcing jackets/ties in non-air-conditioned offices will sap enthusiasm like is saps energy. Allow more relaxed dress-codes and dress-down days.

As is often the case, it is the little human tweaks that make all the difference. Engage and work with your team over the summer months – before they come back from holiday with my number already on speed-dial.

Happy Summer…..



Qualification Vs Experience

Justine Greening was in the press for ‘forcing’ an exam culture on 7yr old kids through “SATS” tests earlier this month, sparking trade-union-esque walk-outs of parents and Justine_Greening_June_2015their children…(walking-out all the way to the local park in the sunshine of last week). The cry was that tests and scoring at this age isn’t important and adds undue stress to the children. My 8yr old daughter took two of her four ISI Standardised ‘tests’ at school last month; “They were fun, quite easy, and we got five minutes extra playtime which was amazing” was her summation. Scared for life? Undue stress?

The oxymoron of these play-park residing militant parents was that despite being anti-testing, the were highlighting the fact that Justine Greening (Secretary of State for Education), with her Comprehensive Secondary Education, Second-Tier university and LBS MBA, wasn’t a qualified Teacher and so wasn’t qualified for that job/those decisions. She did however work in the real world at PricewaterhouseCoopers, GlaxoSmithKline and Centrica before entering politics.

Wind back 3 years. Lord Nash was slammed for recruiting a Head teacher for the Pimlico Primary Free School that did not have a PGCE teaching qualification. Lord Nash, a hugely intelligent, venture capitalist, founder of the Charity ‘Future’ (who set up the Pimlico Free School)…and the Schools Minister.

Lord Nash was criticised for opting for someone without that one-year PGCE (Post-Graduate Certificate in Education), opting instead for someone with experience, and arguably far greater experience than someone that spent a year at teacher-training college.  Lord Nash went for Experience over Qualification. The Department for Education is relying on collective experience, rather than just qualification.

Are they right?

We have become obsessed with qualifications. Generations of Governments pushed to increase the numbers entering University, Tony Blair famously decreeing that 50% of people should do so.  That now means that near 50% of people go to University (with almost 2m people currently studying higher education courses), including over 30% of 18 year olds. That figure was just 2% 60 years ago.

Has society benefited from such an increase in University attendance? Especially with courses on offer such as: ‘Zombie Studies’; ‘Philosophy and Star Trek’; ‘Feel the Force: How to Train in the Jedi Way’; ‘Psychology of Exceptional Human Experiences’ (based on the study of the film GhostBusters); an MA in ‘The Robin Hood Studies Pathway’, ‘Maple Syrup Technologies’, or how about a doctorate in ‘History of Lace Knitting in Shetland’….or arguably any of the 141 Computer-Gaming degree courses.

Even my own profession has seen several degrees launched, including a number of Masters in Recruitment degrees. I asked several people what they might teach…..the responses are largely unprintable.

Experience Vs QualificationsSo what of the choice between the two, generally.  Qualifications are seen by some as a way of guaranteeing knowledge and in some cases experiences. Most finance mandates we handle insist on a qualified accountant, usually with a preference for a Chartered Accountant, an ACA. It gives the hiring business the comfort that they have the basic skills, underpins their knowledge, and gives comfort through the backing of a professional body.

…but here’s the interesting thing. Most will then ask for Big-4 background (i.e., one of the top 4 accounting practices – PwC/KPMG/Deloitte/EY). Why…because of the experience it gives the individual.

Is an ACA such a vital component for a FTSE-350 CFO? Is their audit training, 20 years earlier, such a key factor in the assessment of a £m C-Level exec?

This is where qualification junkies throw in the medical example/argument. Qualifications are vital in some fields, I’d want my surgeon to have full medical qualifications before he operated on me….or my daughter. True of course. Demonstrable proof of the ability to conduct intricate surgery through years of championship winning Airfix model building is unlikely to win favour, But….. Who would you want to operate on your child:

1)     Newly qualified surgeon that graduated the day before
2)     Middle-aged surgeon that hasn’t performed that specific operation for 15 years
3)     Middle-aged surgeon that has performed that exact operation every day for the last 15 years and was credited as the best for that procedure by every medical body

I’m guessing you chose 3). Why? Because of the surgeon’s experience.  Granted, you would be unlikely to go for an unqualified individual in such circumstances, but experience is what wins the day.

Take it away from science and into business/real world, experience has an even bigger pull.

As a HeadHunter, take a look at the below links to some of the mandates I am currently working on:

Chief Experience Officer (Property)
£100-125k + LTIP & package
Chief Operating Officer (Retail)
£125-150k + Equity

Managing Director (Bakery)
£100k + Package

Marketing Director (Retail)
£100k + Package

Sales Director (Chemicals)
£80-100k + Package

eCommerce Director (Omni Channel)
£90k + Package

The key driver for every one of those roles is experience, and the person/chemistry fit.  Only one even mentions qualified… the COO role, and even then it is mentioned once, as desirable, followed by the word experience and is talking about, experience. [NB: The word experience is mentioned 3 times in that copy alone].

Qualifications to most end with a degree. Some tag on a year to do a post-grad, others 3-4 years to complete professional qualifications. Almost all will end their qualifications below the age of 25, most below the age of 21. How mature were you at 21? How intelligent would you consider yourself to be at 21? How much more developed do you feel now?

We still get people obsessed with 1st class degrees, preferably Oxbridge or red-brick at least. Straight-A students with optimum studious demeanours . I love asking them why. No-one has ever given me a real answer.  The majority of 1st class graduates I have met (at or near the point of graduation) are hugely intelligent, but have minimal life experience. Many have never worked, never developed chameleonic social skills….never woken up in a strange flowerbed after a night out. For some professions, and businesses, such traits are an advantage – but a lot less than people will realise.

We’ve all read, ad nauseum, the tales of Billionaire Entrepreneur’s & CEOs that left schools without qualifications/degrees – from Richard Branson to Michael Dell. But the argument goes a lot deeper. Qualifications are no longer an assurance of high intelligence or real-world commerciality, and are often another vain attempt at do little more than qualifying experience.

Even MBAs have lost their shine. An MBA is still a great qualification, and many people attribute their careers success to their MBA…but, the MBA is not the automatic passageway to the top table many people think, and several suppliers/business schools sell. The wider job market, MBA Alumni excepted, does not hold the MBA with huge regard anymore unless from an absolute top flight school. Much in that same way that a bachelor degree was something to be revered, now they have been commoditised, and only seen as massively beneficial if from an absolutely top flight university.

MBAs have accelerated several people’s careers, but typically only once a career is underway and most commonly within the individual person’s current role/business – when they are able to match learning with experience. They do not dramatically improve your chances of securing a new role in the wider job market, and certainly not as much as strong business experience.  Many employers will go one further and take MBA to stand for Maybe Best Avoided as many MBA graduates are given unrealistic expectations of their marketability.

I have interviewed many MBA grads who are very good, very bright and academically well above average, but their experience is often not complementary, significantly diminishing their value in the business world.  Add to this the advice that business school’s will often give their students, instructing them that an MBA translates to a salary that should begin with a ‘6’ as a bare minimum, and that they should refuse to accept less – this often to an individual with less than 5 years practical experience, and at times no (relevant) practical exposure.

That said, I would still love to undertake an MBA as I love learning and improving my knowledge base. Alas, I simply don’t have time and the investment (time and money) would be better employed elsewhere, in my case in actually owning, running, developing and growing a business and rely upon the practical/collaborative guidance of others to help me do so.

….and that becomes the way to view qualifications. Undertake them because you want to, because you crave the knowledge that they will afford and because they will improve and/or facilitate personal development in your chosen area….not as a free-pass to career greatness.

The dot-com generation has highlighted that the direct correlation between traditional education and success in a corporate environment was a bygone assumption.

So back to the question. Qualification or Experience. The easy answer is both. You cannot decry academic credentials, they provide an understanding and exploration of theory that is vitally important….but it is experience that translates theoretical knowledge into practice…and profit.

Does it matter whether knowledge is gained from structured teaching, or whether knowledge is best gained from the acquisition itself? Common sense dictates, knowledge gained through personal experience will always prevail – just ask any parent who has repeatedly told their child NOT to touch something hot, only for the message to only sink in once the child experiences what happens when they do. Basic NLP.

Most of the skills so important in modern business cannot be taught, they have to be experienced. How many people decried modern business leaders during the economic conditions of the last 5 years because they had not experienced running businesses during the previous recession. The massive spike in mature NEDs and executive leaders was testament to the importance of experience.experience

The move most businesses have made to a less autocratic leadership style have also bolstered the argument for experience over qualification. The need to engage with colleagues, collaborate internally and externally and approach most business decisions in a more humanistic manner, all require greater experience. To the best of my knowledge, there is no module on a business degree titled “Be a human, not an arsehole”, yet at least. These skills have to learnt.

Qualifications are used as a primary measure of intelligence – usually a simple filtering tool for lazy recruiters. For many 18 years olds, that is reason enough to study towards a degree. But without the experience to back up the academic instruction, you will likely fall at the second screen.

Management positions especially, require far more qualification than academic. Skills such as leadership, entrepreneurship, vision, team-work, collaboration and the ability to work towards a common goal can all only really be gained from experience.

For that reason, job seekers young and old, need to focus on getting the qualifications you want, but focus harder on gaining the experience you need, whether learnt from business, the sports field, a social enterprise, charity work, a part-time job….or the pub. (and remember to note them on your CV – this is why we say to put your hobbies/interests on a CV as per our CV writing guideHERE).

And remember, Experience is usually the best Qualification.

Recruitment and YOUR Digital Footprint

Think back over the last 10 years of your life. Think of the most riotous night out/holiday/party in that time. Think of the best/worst stag-do-hen-party you’ve been on. Think of the photos that were taken on them.

How many of those photos do you want your prospective employer to see?

Social media has revolutionized a lot of things. Recruitment and jobseeking is one area that has benefits above more than many, but the risk contained in your digital footprint must be understood.
Digital Footprint

We all remember Prince Harry’s Las Vegas antics a couple of years ago. A reminder that in this age of smartphones, coupled with an overzealous/scandal craving media, there is no hiding place from the public eye. His behaviour was rightly dismissed by most as high-jinx antics from a young man about to enter a lengthy period serving in Afghanistan. You could argue the saga won him far more fans than it lost him and made his family appear just a little more human.

Harry’s antics were only newsworthy because he is royal, and a public figure. What about those who aren’t?

We were going to offer you the job….then we saw THIS

I did a speech last year on this subject to a group of final year university students. I asked for a volunteer, a young lady came forward. She was a Law Undergraduate, expecting a first with the plan to join a top 10 law firm.  I asked her to log on to her facebook account on my laptop connected to the projector, she declined. Smart move.

I asked if anyone in the room knew her name, most did. I then found her on facebook, and found several non-private photos of her. They included pictures from her previous year’s holiday, to Ayia Napa. Several photos of her by the pool in a bikini, which noone would disagree looked great, if perhaps a tiny bit inappropriate.

….then came a couple of photos from a nightclub where she and her friend (whoseSummer Holiday Gary Chaplin birthday it appeared to be) were on stage with the male ‘act’ doing something which shall we say made most of her male students sit up with interest, and envy. She looked horrified.

One of these males suggested it may help her get the Top10 job. Unlikely.  We then googled his name and quickly found his Twitter timeline. Of the half a dozen tweets that were visible on that page all but one were probably inappropriate for a prospective employer to see – and that one was a photo of his breakfast! The others included comments on how drunk he had been, swearing, comments of a sexual nature, some VERY politically incorrect comments about an obese person and a joke about a black footballer player.

Does this matter? Surely ‘kids will be kids’. This is true, but in a highly contested job market, employers need no reasons to exclude you from the process.

Real life example?

I interviewed a young lady last year, very bright, straight-A student, Prize-Winning professional qualifications. She had been targeted for a role I was handling working for a London-based, very conservative Entrepreneur. Knowing his HR team would do background checks, I got one of my researchers to do the same, again merely using Google….

We quickly brought up several beauty pageant wins, including an entry in the Miss United Kingdom. It also brought up a side-line pre-University career in fashion modeling. Following that thread it brought up some glamour modeling, and some soft porn work, and some not so soft….. You get the idea. She wasn’t shortlisted.

Another example was an active tweeter who devoted much of his spare time campaigning against Animal Testing and promoting extreme political views. His application to join a key service provider to AstraZeneca ended quickly.

A highly topical example is the recent hijack of HMVs twitter feed last year, the tweets from recently dismissed members of staff were swiftly deleted, but only after 1,000 of copies had been made and distributed.

Your digital footprint is indelible. Your Facebook/Twitter accounts can be deleted, but the data will remain somewhere. Worse still, the majority of your digital footprint cannot be deleted by you but can be found by anyone.

Easiest way to prevent an adverse footprint is to avoid undertaking any activity that if discovered, might in any way hinder career prospects. But we are all human, and the life of total abstinence can render equal levels of unemployability. …for most it is “too late to shut the gate after the horse has bolted”

Back to Prince Harry.  How did he deal with the situation? No doubt he got a dressing down from his commanding officer, a similar dressing down from his Grannie and huge sarcasm from everyone that knew him. He’ll also make sure that next time, his so-called friends do not have their phones nearby…..

But he took it on the chin and laughed it off. A young man, in the military, about to risk his life for 5 months in Afghanistan had a party..…with girls and alcohol. He’d be more embarrassed if there hadn’t been such a party.

What can commoners do? I have first hand of this. Having been splashed across the media in 2011, I can see the impact of modern digital media. I was lucky, not only was the reported story so exaggerated it became obviously unbelievable, but I work in a profession where being well known is a massive benefit. My tale had a happy ending, many do not.

The lessons are same for everyone though, don’t hide, don’t deny. Take extreme caution in what you do publically but don’t avoid living life because of it. Yes delete those photos from Facebook once you start entering the job market. Be especially careful of what you tweet/blog/etc – assume that everyone sees your comments, your wife/husband, her/his parents, your boss, etc…and use that as your control mechanism. Don’t assume you can hide. The wwworld is watching.

But after the event, remember the saying, “It is not how hard you fall, but how high you bounce-back”.   Address, explain and move on. If others can’t, it was never meant to be.

Above all, be aware of your digital footprint.

New Year. £1m of Opportunities.

Despite a politically volatile year, 2016 was a very positive year for Executive Search, and business in general from our indicators. The value of the Global Executive Search market broke through $10bn for the first time ever, at the same time the general recruitment market exceeded $500bn….executive search maintaining the 2% discussed in our Why Recruitment Is Like Gin Blog.

Closer to home, 2016 was a record year for business wins. New instructions were at an all time high, helped by a record December where we saw almost 6 months worth of new business won in just 3 weeks; the completion value of which exceeds our first full year turnover!

The breadth of sectors and function is highly encouraging. Newly won roles include a Property sector Chief Experience Officer; a 3rd gen family food production business Managing Director; two Sales Directors; Commodity Manufacturer Head of Supply Chain; Chemical Sector Process & Continuous Improvement Lead, a Pharmaceutical Key Client Engagement Manager role and a CDMO Business Development Manager.

Beyond that, salaries have seen a steady increase with around a 10% uplift across the board for those moving roles, 45% of our placements were female (27% at C-Level) and just under 60% of C-Level placements went to over-40s. European interference over Age or Gender Discrimination seems to remain as unrequired as it is unwelcome. As Brexit (and Trump) have proven, the connection between Politics and Business has never been more disparate.

All of which makes for a very Happy New Year. Best wishes for prosperity and hiring success in 2017.

Live Opportunities

Chief Experience Officer (Property)
£100-125k + LTIP & package
Chief Operating Officer (Retail)
£125-150k + Equity

Managing Director (Manufacturing)
£100k + Package

Marketing Director (Retail)
£100k + Package

Sales Director (Chemicals)
£80-100k + Package

eCommerce Director (Omni Channel)
£90k + Package
Retail Operations Director (National)
£100k + Package
Head of Supply Chain (Manuf)
£50k + package
Key Client Engagement (Pharma)
£65k + package
International BusDev Mgr (Manuf)
£70-80k + Package
Head of eCommerce (Luxury Retail)
£70-80k + Package
Process & CI/Six Sigma Lead (Manuf)
£55-70k + Package

Business Director (US Based)
 + Package
VP – North America (eCommerce)
£70k + Package
Business Development Mgr (CDMO)
£60k + Package

Group Financial Controller (Manufacturing)….£50k + Package

Don’t Neglect Your CV

Whoever invented the 2-page CV rule deserves immeasurable pain. Simple mistakes on such a vital document is my biggest frustration.

Keep yours clean with our CV Tips: 20 Things to do…..20 Things to avoid!

Interviewing. 20 Questions That Could Make All The Difference

For all its flaws, the interview is still the best means of assessing individuals for a specific role…..but only if done properly.

For 20 questions to make your interviews better (and 20 more to make you laugh), read more….

 Gary Chaplin HeadShot Logo

15 ways to boost Christmas Spirit (and Staff Retention)

Merry Christmas. On some level, everyone loves Christmas. Halcyon memories of childhood, giddiness of our own children….or giddiness of adulthood festive expectation. Or all three.

But for employers/business owners there is a lot of fear. We all know that once the Christmas lights go up, productivity levels tend to go down, mirrored, in all probability, by a drop in revenue, but with no real drop in operating costs. How very Ebenezer Scrooge, but also very real.

There is also the secondary hit that January typically sparks one of the busiest times on the ‘replacement’ recruitment market as employees, fuelled with joyful tidings, festive cheer, close time spent with family are forcibly encouraged to re-assess their own lives by way of New Year Resolutions. Careers/Jobs nearly always figure heavily in people’s “This year I will…..” lists. Add in renewed vigour from better employees/headhunters to increase their talent pool….increased headhunting approaches become even more effective.

The two issues are not unconnected. The more Scrooge-like you are as an employer, the less Joyful & Triumphant your employees will enter this festive season – a time when they will be reminded about the less commercial/more humanistic/family side of their work-life-blend.

We’ve all worked for Scrooge-esque employers. Over the years I’ve had employers that have refused to put any Christmas decorations in the office (or made employees contribute to pay for them); Not afforded any time off and/or insisted that a forced shut-down (when business will be quiet) is taken out of an already Dickensian holiday allowance; Had Board directives to ensure that productivity is maintained and targets upheld regardless; Had Christmas parties either cancelled, unfunded or subject to such terms and conditions so as to remove any semblance of fun. Refused any jovial accommodation. Etc etc

This all sticks in my mind as examples of poor leadership at a time of year when it would be so easy to achieve the opposite. There is no surprise that majority of my job moves have been in the first two months of the year…..all the product of a headhunt approach at a time when I was more susceptible to a career move/acceleration.

Bah Humbug

As an employer, it is a difficult time to balance altruism with commerciality. But whether you have 5 or 500 members of staff, it can be a great opportunity to cement your place as an employer of choice.

So how can you bring Christmas cheer to your business (and it’s commercial performance) AND your colleagues.

Engagement is key. Forcing your version of Christmas on your employees is a recipe for disaster. Find out what they would like, then formulate a festive strategy.

With just the 12 days of Christmas to go, it isn’t too late. Our tips & suggestions:

Be Festive
I’m still surprised how many offices I’ve been into this week that have no decorations and no nod to the festive season. The budget to kit your office out with nice/quality decorations is miniscule compared to any business. Giving a team member £30 and sending him/her to the local market will end in disaster and an office filled with cheapOffice Tree tinsel. You only need to commit a tiny fraction of one-percent December’s revenue to make an office look inviting – and do it yourself (or get someone in) rather than mindlessly tasking an office junior to dance around everyone as they work. Make the office decoration a surprise to employees, it will provide great festive ROI.

Christmas Cards
“This year we have made a charitable donation in lieu of sending Christmas cards”. That can be one of the most unmotivating and uncaring sentiments we hear at Christmas. Even personalized and simple hand-written note to your direct team (as well as clients) to thank them for their effort goes a huge way, especially if the card includes truly personalised comments about the year they have just finished.

Festive flexible working
An OECD study revealed that the UK average working day is 7.8hours, making our global position no 6 behind Mexico and the US however, in front of France and Germany. Over 75% of employers from the study said they found remote workers more productive.

If your company doesn’t have a flexi-time policy, Christmas is a great time to implement one. Make it clear to your team how many hours you expect them to log a day but explain that you appreciate they have other commitments at this time outside of work and want to help them. This will show that you trust your employees to manage their time and should cut down on the longer lunches and any attendance issues, which are common problems around Christmas time.

Tailor your Christmas to the team(s) that are there. Make individuals and teams feel special and have an input as to what to do. If the team are not a big ‘party’ team or big drinkers, opting for an alcohol fuelled party won’t win favour. Likewise with time off/early finishes. Finishing early but insisting every one goes to the pub/German markets for 2 hours may not suit everyone – those with small families might appreciate the shopping time.

Personalise (2)AmazaBaubles
Get personalised decorations…personalised to your team, not the business! A great way to personalise the festive season. Personalised baubles on an office Christmas tree is a great option. The best I’ve comes across is from Oli Dunn – “Oli The Choc” the Chocolatier’. Look at his Amaze Baubles ….£5 each, and not only are they personalised, they are Chocolate so they can be eaten afterwards!! Up the game even more by getting your team’s children one as well.

Days of praising
Engaged, inspired and happy staff can lead a 12% increase in productivity (EY study 2014). The same survey highlighted that only 3 in 10 UK employees feels engaged in their role. Christmas is a great time to focus on individual and team successes and ensure simple but effective praise is dished out, and done so publically. A great way to keep staff motivation levels at a high over the weekend is to praise employees on Friday. Ensuring that they return on a Monday morning feeling encouraged, refreshed and ready to work. The combined efforts lead to the same feeling over the Festive Break.

Christmas is more about giving than receiving. A mantra chimed out to children across the land, but having a nominated Charity to focus some collaborative efforts towards on the run up to Christmas is a huge motivational tool, as well as a great altruistic gesture.

Don’t overlook the Christmas Party
Sage UK’s 2014 survey revealed that almost 40% of UK businesses did not having a Christmas party the previous year, despite their widespread benefits of maintaining employee loyalty. The opportunity to boost staff motivation in order to return in the New Year energised and engaged is invaluable and well worth factoring in a budget for it. Conversely cancelling your Christmas party or watering it down can instantly dent staff morale, something which can take months to build back up.…

….but make sure the joviality and positivity is not dented by penny-pinching or overzealous ‘HR’. Nothing hits the Christmas spirit by announcing a £15 per head allowance, or forcing employees to read and sign a ‘contract’ to confirm their agreement to set behavioural rules and impending disciplinary action for too much Christmas Spirit. Employees treated like adults, act like adults.

Provide free food
Food is the way to everyone’s heart. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, try having one day a week where the company provides breakfast for the team? According to a survey conducted by Seamless, 60% of employees feel that having company-provided food in the office would make them feel more valued and productive. Breakfast is a great tool as it gets the day off on a collegiate basis. An alternative is to lay out a spread of food in the boardroom one lunchtime and encourage everyone to eat together from the boardroom to the mailroom. Small gestures like this can have a huge effect on the mind-set of your employees.

Secret Santa
Easily scoffed at, but Secret Santa is a great tool to bring individual teams together Take turns with picking names out of a hat and set a budget, then let individual creativity take over. This can create a real buzz around the office and ensure workers stay happy at work, which is essential to how they will perform.

The Christmas Bonus
Christmas bonuses used to be de rigueur. Nowadays bonuses form a standard part of most packages and are no longer perceived as a ‘bonus’. That said, a Christmas incentive scheme aligned with your business goals will be warmly received by workers. The promise of some extra money in their December pay packet in turn for them hitting set targets is a sure-fire way to ensure motivation stays high. As long as targets set are realistic and achievable.

Even better – surprise staff with an unexpected Christmas bonus on the last working day before Christmas, as a reaffirmation of your appreciation to them. It doesn’t need to be budget breaking.

Gift your shut down
Most offices now have Christmas shut down between Christmas Day and New Years Day – but many still force employees to use their holiday allowance (typically 10-15% of their annual allowance). Gifting these days is a huge gesture.

12 Days of Christmas
I ran this for one of my teams a long time ago. For the two weeks leading up to Christmas, there was a treat on eveyone’s desk first thing in the morning. It cost less that £250 for the whole programme. Some days an ‘order form’ for a festive Starbucks that I went out and got mid-morning, other days a Mince Pie, other days a bottle of mulled wine to take home…other days a hot mug of mulled wine.

Ease Modern Day Logistics
As parenthood gets a grip, time and logistics becomes more and more difficult. Another programme I ran was to employ a Christmas Elf ‘gift wrapper’ to come in to the office for the afternoon of the 23rd Christmas to wrap everyone’s presents. They could bring in their own paper, or we provided a selection. Most of the team brought anything from the odd gift in from home, to almost their entire haul to get wrapped.

Another welcome zero-cost gesture is to allow employees to have online deliveries delivered and stored at work. You can up the ante even more by approaching key suppliers (Perfume/Cosmetics/etc) and arranging centrally acquired discounts.

Have Fun!
Above all else, use the festive season to create a more positive, lighthearted environment. At a time when most employees will have celebrating on their minds, you will find it hugely beneficial to create a fun and friendly atmosphere in the workplace; it could make all the difference to morale, and tip into the New Year.

Insignificant Small gestures such as playing festive music, having a Christmas Jumper day (and competition), have a family half-day after schools have broken up, even if just for the last hour then host a mini-family party with gifts for Children and a visit from Santa; or simply just getting mince pies in the office and a Christmas cake to take-away are all ways of demonstrating to your staff that you care for their well-being.

Ultimately, by making your workforce feel valued and appreciated over Christmas, you’ll be keeping morale high and productivity levels at their best.

Ensuring that you balance work with the holiday season for your employees by keeping things fun and friendly, whilst making sure you are clear about what is expected in terms of workload, especially on return in the New Year, should keep motivation strong and staff happy…and less likely to be calling me in the January.

Christmas Spirit: 12 Festive Gins

Last year, I blogged about Why Recruitment Was Like Gin. A tenuous subject, perhaps, but it became the most viewed blog on my site in 2015…aided I am sure by the tasting notes for over 50 of my favourite Gins.

The parallels are still there. Both the Recruitment market and the Gin market have seen unprecedented growth, with the niche players, offering a more tailored and unusual approach, seeing even greater growth than the market in general.

Both specialist markets have seen the benefit of offering Unique Selling Points, breaking with the mode of the generic market dominators to offer a unique proposition with heightened customer engagement and satisfaction. Both have seen their market share increase by 50% against their generic markets.

It therefore seemed apt to once again bring the two subjects together and bring you 12 Festive Gin recipes. I won’t even try to bring a business parallel of doing so….just enjoy the festive gin(s). Merry Christmas.
You struggle to beat a good Sloe Gin this time of year. A quick search will find you dozens. They are all subtly different. Elephant, Monkey 47 and the quirkily titled Gentlemen Badgers to name just a few.
But longer drinks are a worthy labour of love, taking the nuances and flavours of the botanicals found and matching it with festive garnishes to bring about a flavoursome result. (NB for these drinks, use Fever-Tree or 1724 tonic. I use c150ml of tonic per measure of gin.

FEW with Cranberry & OrangeGary Chaplin Gin. FEW Orange and Cranberry
FEW is an Evanston Gin (near Chicago) that I discovered on a trip to Chicago last Christmas. FEW (or F.E.W) cheekily takes its name from the Francis Elizabeth Willard, the long-time home of the 19th Century Temperance Reformer, Female Suffragist and Prohibitionist. It’s citrus, especially orange, botanicals make it an ideal base for festive drinks. This history-fuelled gin deserves a complex drink.

Take 6 cranberries with a short piece of orange zest and muddle in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, a double measure of FEW and a half shot of fresh orange juice. Shake vigorously! Strain into your glass and add 300ml of good quality Tonic Water.

Hunters with Apple, Clove & CinnamonGary Chaplin Gin. Hunters Apple Juice
Hunters is a perennial favourite. It’s become my HeadHunters Gin (watch this space on that brand appearing for select clients). The 300 year old recipe is beautiful and its Citrus and Apple botanicals make it another great Christmas base.

Simply add a shot of pure apple juice to a double measure of Hunters in a round stemmed glass with 5 chunks of ice, then add a cinnamon stick and 3 or 4 cloves. Turn over for a minute with ice and let infuse for a few minutes more. Add tonic and leave for 5 mins to infuse further.

Four Pillars Gin with Cranberry & Rosemary
FourPillarsGinFour Pillars is a great and unusual gin from Australia’s Yarra Valley. Its key botanicals are Lemon Myrtle and Tasmanian Pepperberry Leaf giving one of the most unusual flavours in the Gin market.

To complement this I add a similarly unusual mix. Make the Gin & Tonic, then squeeze a dozen or so fresh cranberries into the drink – you’ll only get a drop or two from each cranberry. Then throw in and stir with a spring of Rosemary.

Mombasa Club with Orange Zest, Cinnamon & Star AniseGary Chaplin Gin. MombasaGary Chaplin Gin. Mombasa2
Mombasa Club is an unusual taste, created by its blend of botanicals, dominated by sweet citrus and anise notes. To this I add Orange Zest, a Cinnamon Stick and Star Anise. Again turn it over then add tonic.

Bathtub Gin with Clementine Zest, Cinnamon and MarmaladeGary Chaplin Gin. Bathtub

Professor Ampleforth’s Bathtub Gin is housed in a distinctive brown paper covered bottle and gives a nod to Prohibition-era of 1920s America when such gins were made at home…in the bathtub (although us Brits were using the same method in the 18th Centrury). It’s citrus-forward botanicals make for an unusual paring.

Mix a small teaspoon of rindless marmalade into the bottom of a large round glass and add a double measure of Gin. Mix until the marmalade has dissolved, then add ice, clementine zest and a cinnamon stick. Turn over for a minute, then add tonic.

Four Pillars ‘Bloody Shiraz’ Mulled Ginimg_1462
Only the Australians could come up with a gin made with Shiraz Grapes…and then call it ‘Bloody Shiraz Gin’; but it makes for a great drink.

Make as a normal Gin & Tonic but add Mulled Wine spices (Nutmeg/Cinnamon/Orange/Clove) to mimic mulled wine.

Hunters Gin with Clove-Speared Apple & CinnamonGary Chaplin Gin. Hunters Speared 2 Gary Chaplin Gin. Hunters Speared
Another (Head)Hunters based, apple pour. Take a wedge of sweet apple, and spear it with cloves. Add to your glass, with a Cinnamon Stick and pour over a double measure of Hunters. Turn over, then add tonic. Let infuse for 10 minutes.

Sacred Christmas Pudding Gin with Clementine Zest
The Sacred Distillery make an unusual range of (almost) flavoured Gins. The best, inGary Chaplin Gin. Sacred Christmas Pudding Gin my opinion, is their Christmas Pudding Gin. A London Dry Gin that is distilled with 48kg of actual Christmas Pudding (the founders Aunt Nellie’s traditional recipe), before being filtered and bottled. So authentic is the process that you actually get Christmas Pudding sediment in the bottle.

The Gin can be drunk neat from the freezer, but I do like it better in a GnT. It is perfect by itself; real tones of Christmas Pudding are very evident. It is even nicer with an inch or two of Clementine Zest though, but no more or the orange flavour can overpower the subtle pudding flavour.

FEW Insurgint with Clove Speared Clementine Wheel img_1588
A revisit for FEW gin, I’ve cheated and used the Limited edition BloodShot Records ‘Insurgint’ that isn’t available here in the UK, but regular FEW (or the Whiskey Barrel stored Few Barrel Gin works well), this time the citrus forward bimg_1589otanicals are enhanced with a wheel of clementine speared with cloves.

Spear the clementine with cloves then slice into a wheel, add the gin, turn over for a minute then add the tonic. Allow to infuse for 5 minutes.

Daffy’s Gin with Orange Zest, Cinnamon Stick & Star AniseGary Chaplin Gin. Daffys Gin Gary Chaplin Gin. Daffys
Daffy’s is a young entrance to the Specialist Gin market having celebrated the 1st Birthday just last week. Citrus botanicals are complimented by Angelica, Cassia Bark and Orris Root giving a complex and unique taste.

To compliment and intensify to those Botanicals, I added Orange Zest, a Cinnamon Stick & Star Anise.

Portobello Road Gin with Orange Zest & NutmegGary Chaplin Gin. Portobello
Portobello Road Gin is a great flavoursome gin with botanicals including bitter orange peel, orris root, angelica root, cassia bark and nutmeg. It’s festive on it’s own, but for an even more festive twist, add Orange Zest and grate some nutmeg into the gin and ice, turn over then add the tonic.

Sloe Gin with Dry Gin
Gary Chaplin Gin. Sipsmithimg_1582

Easy one. As I said above, Sloe Gin is a great festive drink on it’s own – for me, it’s Christmas in a glass.
But for a nice, longer twist, add one measure of Sloe Gin to one measure of London Dry Gin, then add tonic. Sipsmith is an easilyaccessible choice but try Monkey img_160547 Sloe and Dry Gins or if you can find it, ElephantSloe/Dry Gin as a great and different/more indepth alternative. Try with a twist of orange zest to add to the flavour further

Enjoy! Let me know your thoughts…your favourites…..your suggestions.

Merry Christmas!

Dear America….

We feel your pain. You didn’t get the President many of you wanted. You didn’t get the President most of us wanted you to get. But as President Obama predicted, the sun still rose on Wednesday. It rose again yesterday and today. It will rise again tomorrow.

We now see protests, complaints and anger. Don’t waste your energy. Don’t get sucked in. This isn’t the America we know. You’ve always been the country with the “Hell Yeah” message, “We can ****ing do this” stance and JFDI attitude. The world has secretly admired that. Please find that again.

Zig Ziglar spoke of “It’s not the height of the fall, it’s the height of the bounceback that counts”. Bounceback! Regain your party from the Establishment; Regain your country from those who listened to your countrymen’s dissent by listening harder. Fight the disrupter with disruption; Fight with active, positive disruption. Obama fought his detractors with charm, charisma and accessibility. Learn from his popularity. Ignore the media, the pollsters. Listen to your hearts. Fight in a way that it will be listened.

Make sure your congressman fights like Republican congressmen have fought duringTrump.Obama Obama’s tenure. Hold Trump true to his election victory speech. Make him a President for all people. Ignore what he spouted during the nastiest election campaign of all time (on both sides). Like it or not, he is your President. Judge him on his actions. Hold him to account on his actions. Use your energy in that direction. Don’t feed the beast. A controversial animal will only get stronger.

Don’t be shocked and stupefied. Realise that your country’s dissent was real. Send the message to the Establishment, and all political Establishments around the world that the people want a voice; their voice. Realise that all people want their voice, not just those on the left-hand side of politics. Political Correctness is Political more than Correct. Out-Trump Trump.

You’ve trumped our Brexit. And yet, our Brexit hasn’t crushed even us. Our markets fell, then bounced-back. Trump’s election victory barely registered on global markets, no panic, no freefall, just a momentary flicker. The strength of your country was seen as too great. Use that strength. Don’t make the aftershock worse than the quake.

The British public voted for Brexit. Many of us were unhappy with the outcome. Some of us have accepted it and are now hell-bent on making the best job possible of that position. Meanwhile our politicians and a much of our ‘whinge-fest’ media are trying to find ways to block, inhibit, delay, discredit and confuse the will of the people. Don’t be like them.

img_1109We have just returned from 10 days in the US; Chicago and the North Shore. Possibly our best trip ever. The weather helped, as did the Cubs’ World Series win (#GoCubsGo), but the optimism, the positive atmosphere and the overall energy made our trip superb. A true and real American welcome from the City to the family-led neighbourhoods. US strength, power Gary Chaplin Chicagoand positivity is attractive and infectious. Don’t let one man kill it and force you to direct that energy to the wrong side of positivity and optimism.

I hired a road bike (thanks Rapha Cycle Club!) and got to see the city from the saddle. The guys I rode with were predominantly businessmen, being img_0668Chicago, they were also predominantly democrats. The energy they had was infectious, the love for their city and the country was immense, even the naturalized Brits amongst them. They saw the risks of the Clinton campaign, the vote for the unloved Establishment that she not only stood for, but was surrounded by. Even they felt disenfranchised. They’d never have voted for Trump, but their voting decision was made because of him, not because of her. They all wanted change. They all wanted to embrace and accept change; and capitalize on that change making it an opportunity not a threat. I don’t doubt they all will.

img_0956America you have an amazing country. We, the British, and so much of the World has much to learn from you. Your passion is unparalleled and to can-do/will-do attitude an example to us all. We saw the Cubs win the World Series whilst we were there. We saw the celebration, an open top bus parade much like our football teams receive. Manchester United got img_1050100,000 people lining their route the last time they won. The Cubs got 5 million. Their parade and party in Grant Park is now the 7th largest human gathering of all time. Not only was that passion and energy as infectious as it was amazing, it passed off without trouble, without fighting, without drunken disorder and within 2 hours, the entire city was back to Friday afternoon normal.

Your country is still a magnet for the world. Our trip to Chicago was in part to scope out an office opening out there. I wavered for 12 hours after the vote, but then saw the interest in our two current/impeding US roles spike upward, and a brief for a third role. All of these roles have had more interest in the past 24 hours than in the 7 days prior to the election, and more interest since the election than any other role we are handling.

Our US Roles:

VP – US Operations

Business Director – North America

Managing Director (US)
Marketing Agency

In the UK today we have Armistice Day; Remembrance Day. You have Veterans Day. On this day, we all remember those that risked and gave their today for our tomorrow. We need to remember what they fought for and not let a blip on the political timeline affect history aft and forward. Use your today in the best way possible to ensure the tomorrow we want for our children.

As Martin Luther King spoke (and President Barack Obama reiterated frequently)….”The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Press Release: Headhunter Pitches to Theo Paphitis and Wins Charity Award!

Gary Chaplin, from Wilmslow, is celebrating after pitching to renowned businessmanGary Chaplin Theo Paphitis - Charity Award Win Theo Paphitis and being crowned winner of the 2016 Many Hands Campaign in support of Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity.

The annual Many Hands Campaign, spearheaded for the fourth time by renowned businessman Theo Paphitis, has raised £46,000 from 21 participating companies since its launch in March, with money still coming in.

Gary Chaplin Theo Paphitis - Charity Award WinGary Chaplin Theo Paphitis - Charity Award WinAt the finale, held at the Midland Hotel in Manchester, four companies took to the stage to pitch about their fundraising initiative, including Gary who stripped off on stage to reveal his bespoke cycling jersey and shorts, designed especially for the ride, before getting on his bike to talk about his cycle event that aimed to cycle the height of Mount Everest.DSC_1323

To accomplish this, a team of 16 riders spent ten hours repeatedly cycling up the infamous Cat and Fiddle route with the total distance covered equating to the height of Mount Everest. Each loop saw the cyclists covering a distance of 14 miles and over 1,500ft per run. The team cycled over 72 loops on the day, equating to an incredible 3.8 climbs of Mount Everest.
Gary Chaplin Theo Paphitis - Charity Award Win Gary Chaplin Theo Paphitis - Charity Award Win Gary Chaplin Theo Paphitis - Charity Award Win

Gary himself returned the following day to complete a further 5 climbs, taking his overall tally to 19 runs and £29,400ft….more than the height of Mount Everest.

Further details of the ride, and photographs of the event can be found at


Gary was joined on stage by his 7yr old daughter who not only handed out rider Musettes to the judges, donated to all the riders by TeamSky, but also cheered him on from the audience.
Gary Chaplin Theo Paphitis - Charity Award Win Gary Chaplin Theo Paphitis - Charity Award Win Gary Chaplin Theo Paphitis - Charity Award WinInnovation was a key part of the Charity Campaign, and along with the ride itself, Gary sold sponsorship space on his cycle jerseys to clients and corporate contacts.

Key supporters of his Everest Challenge event were Ryman, HaikaThe Fragrance ShopTeam SkyArighi Bianchi, Jet2.comThe Savoy London, MyProtein, Oliver SweeneyJohn Abbott Flooring, Recruit VRX, Daffy’s GinHunters Gin, Forest Gin, Hotel Gotham, Piccolino Alderley Edge, Fever-Tree Mixers, The CoastAtlas Gin BarGU Gels, and Duerrs (whose HiPro High Protein Peanut Butter which got made into Protein-Rich energy balls handed out to the riders.)

Further innovation came from Gary offering a prize draw to anyone sponsoring the event, with prizes including Two Return Flights courtesy of, a luxury weekend at The Savoy London, and a Tour De France Jersey signed by Chris Froome courtesy of Team Sky.

To conclude the innovative route to Fundraising, Gary set up a Base Camp Party during the ride at Arighi Bianchibased at the foot of the climb. Chocolate Making from renowned Chocolatier Oli The Choc, face-painting, balloon making, CupCakes by Keri…and a pop-up Gin-Bar serving local Hunters Cheshire GinForest Gin, and Daffy’s Gin were on offer, along with Fever-Tree Tonic

All in all, the event raised almost £9,500. Donations can still be made at

As part of his prize package, Gary will now receive a personal visit from Theo Paphitis to help him with his business.

The other shortlisted companies were:

  • Space48 from Warrington for their festival influenced event for all the family, ‘Space Camp 48’, which included camping, music and entertainment.
  • Manchester based Online Ventures Group for their initiative of selling their directors to the highest bidder to take on tasks such as being a PA, chauffeur and making a film.
  • Archie’s Burgers and Shakes, based in Liverpool and Manchester, for their initiative of producing milkshakes created by patients at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and selling them with the profits being donated to the campaign.

Joining the famed Dragons’ Den star on the judging panel to make the all-important decision were David Cain, Deputy Chairman of the Charity Fundraising Board, Managing Director of Wolfe, Laura Wolfe and Head of Events for Downtown in Business, Roger Jonas.

Gary Chaplin Theo Paphitis Charity Award WinCommenting on his win Gary Chaplin said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have won the Many Hands Campaign. I was a little bit nervous about pitching to Theo Paphitis but once I stripped off and got on that bike my nerves melted away and I could focus on sharing the enormous Everest cycle challenge we had taken on. At the end of the day it’s not about me it’s about the business community pulling together with the real winner being Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity for their hard work in trying to make a difference.”

Commenting on the Campaign, long-term supporter of the charity, Theo Paphitis, said:

“The Many Hands Campaign is a great initiative that allows companies to use theirGary Chaplin Theo Paphitis Charity Award Win ingenuity to help a worthwhile cause.  I really enjoy being involved and being a judge for the campaign as it generates such diversity in fundraising ideas. As well as having loads of fun, whether creating a milkshake, getting on a bike or taking on a new role, companies get a great opportunity to engage with their communities and gain a huge sense of pride in what they have achieved.”

The annual campaign, which first launched in 2008, encourages North West businesses to support the charity by signing up to a fundraising target of £1,000 each over the course of three months. This year the Many Hands Campaign was sponsored by Ryman Stationery and Seneca Partners.

Monies raised by this year’s campaign will go towards the Charity’s Helipad Appeal. The Helipad Appeal will enable the creation of a brand-new 24-hour access primary helicopter landing site, the first of its kind in central Manchester. Currently, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, along with its co-located sister hospitals Manchester Royal Infirmary and Saint Mary’s Hospital, rely upon a secondary landing site in a nearby park, an arrangement which means that patients initially transported by air ambulance must then be transferred the final mile of their journey by land ambulance. The onsite helipad will allow the hospitals to save many more lives and will increase the chances of a full or improved level of recovery in a great many seriously ill or injured patients.

Social Media in Business – Survey

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 19.05.06I blogged two years ago about the value of Social Media in business; specifically MY business. Read it here: What’s Twitter Worth To You?.

In short, I valued my Social Media exposure, primarily Twitter, as worth £100,000 to my business in just 6 months.

223231-1wsmlc1400617305Two years on, Social Media is dominating most business’s sales strategy, marketing strategy, R&D, customer feedback, new product development…and corporate personality.

It’s no longer enough to just throw a website up, especially with content that is just your 2007 corporate literature transcribed online. Regardless of your business, your digital shopfront extends to social media sites; and the smarter business’s are now really capitalising on it whilst others are yet to embrace, and risk falling (even further) behind.


Survey: Where do you see Social Media’s place in business?

To have your say, take part in this short SURVEY (it will take about 1 minute) – results will be published on 23rd May.

All entrants will be placed in a draw to win a prize donated by businesses that have, in turn, fully embraced and reaped benefit from Social Media:

A Pair of Oliver Sweeney Shoes
One of the UK’s pre-eminent Luxury Lifestyle Brands, manufacturing the finest shoes available. Founded in 1989, Oliver Sweeney is synonymous with quality and style. The brand prides itself on its handcrafted processes, finest Italian leathers and the originality of design ensuring they’re a favourite with customer, press and celebrities alike. My footwear of choice….and the subject of my First Impressions Blog

A Daffy’s Gin Gift Set
Daffy’s Small Batch Premium Gin is made with grain spirit from northern France, which is then distilled using a copper pot still. The Scottish distillers use a selection of eight botanicals for Daffy’s Gin, including juniper, Lebanese mint, coriander, angelica root, Spanish lemon and orange peels, cassia bark and orris root. The gift set includes a bottle of Daffy’s Gin with two glasses. Read more on our Recruitment/Gin Tips Blog

A Bottle of (Head)Hunters Cheshire Gin
Hunters Gin is a small batch premium gin developed in Cheshire. It’s made in traditional copper pot and rectifying stills (some of which being more than a century old!) using a 300yr old recipe and is flavoured with botanicals including juniper from the Balkans, French angelica, Spanish lemon peel and Florentine orris root. Read more on our Recruitment/Gin Tips Blog

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 19.05.06

As a follow-on to the importance of Social Media in Business, we have been nominated for the ‘Best Social Media Presence‘ category at the City of Manchester Business Awards. We’d love you to vote for us. Please click here to do so.

My Thanks to Tim Cooper at Oliver Sweeney, Ian Cass at Hunters Gin & Anna Best at Daffy’s Gin for supporting me on the survey.

Your Life, Your Career…Your Hands. Lessons from Tony Robbins

“Whether you believe you can do something, or believe you can’t; You are probably right”.

It’s a great quote, said by Henry Ford but adopted by 1,000s. It relates to self belief, and specifically, the power of the subconscious mind – both of which are the cornerstone of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

The power of the sub-conscious mind is far greater than most will give credit for. It is said that the conscious mind can typically process 9 things at any one time (although some will claim up to 40). The sub-conscious mind can however process between 20 and 40 million things at any one time.

Want to see it in action? When was the last time you couldn’t think of a name? …”It’s on the tip of my tongue….It’ll come to me”? Then seconds later you remember it. That is because you pass the process from your conscious mind to your sub-conscious. Your sub-conscious mind then continued to work on it and within seconds ‘located’ the name.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) gives the ability to bypass the conscious mind and access the sub-conscious mind. It is often seen as something you need to ‘believe in’, a bit like religion. However, the reality is that our lives are dominated by NLP and the power of the subconscious mind – our ability to understand and recognise how to use them for our own benefit is the skill that many spend years learning. But anyone can use it….even before they understand exactly what the subconscious mind is.

Don’t believe it? When my daughter was 3 yrs old, she found a freckle on her finger. She asked what it was and was told it was her ‘Happy Spot’ – a magic spot that whenever she felt unhappy or sad, she could press and would feel happy. She believed it, and since that time, whenever she has felt unhappy, she presses the spot and immediately becomes happy. Ask her to demonstrate it and she will grin and then laugh instantly. Without realising it, she has accessed her sub-conscious mind and learned to control it.

So what has a 3yr old’s happy spot got to do with Henry Ford, business…and recruitment?

The biggest hurdle that just about anyone I meet has in their own career development, or their ability to access a great career advancing opportunity, is themselves. Yet the same thing is the reason why some people I meet have achieved so much so early in their careers.

This country is too good at believing we cannot do things. We joke that the US is the land of “Hell Yeah”, but the bigger joke is that the UK is often the land of “I’m not sure” and “Do you really think we should”.

That is permanently evident in the individuals I meet and interview. The lack of self belief is far more evident than it should be. Bearing in mind I typically operate at senior management level, that fact is worrying. Too many of these individuals scarcely believe in their own ability, let alone have the power to convince others.

Even worse are the number of people in business leading roles, who demonstrate the same lack of self belief and consequently have no desire to continue to learn, develop or look for personal improvement despite discontent with their current role and employment status. These same people will often bemoan the fact that others get preferential treatment when it comes to career advancement, bonuses etc.

What makes two similar aged individuals, with similar educational backgrounds, have such disparate successes in life? What makes individuals have the ability to amass a personal net worth of millions, or achieve amazing positions of authority/influence/leadership when seemingly identical individuals struggle to get by.

Clearly many factors contribute but a common theme amongst every person I have met that occupies either of the foremost positions is their own self-belief. They believe they can succeed. They believe they can achieve everything they seek, and thus structure their lives around doing so.

But it is more than just a dog-headed resolve to achieve, work 18 hour days, 7 day weeks. Most of these people’s sub-conscious is in tune with their beliefs. Their ability to succeed is pre-programmed. Ever wondered why hugely successful individuals that lose everything are able to rebuild themselves? Or why key individuals are able to succeed on a variety of different ventures/projects/businesses? Do they just get several bouts of luck?

Knowingly or not, they use their sub-conscious to lead them to the right results – letting their subconscious mind’s ability to process up to 40,000,000 things, assist their conscious mind’s meagre 9. They believe they will gain the success they crave and literally get up to a million times the energy.

Take a look at any young, self-made millionaire – many will have demonstrated their ability to succeed well before adulthood. Does this mean their sub-conscious is pre-programmed from birth? Or that their parental upbringing has engendered such beliefs?

Likewise the dramatic career acceleration of Millennials (Generation Y in old money). They have been born in a more transient time; their career development shows evidence when they move job every 13 months on average in the first 15 yrs of their careers, compared to even 3 years from Generation X. They are naturally programmed to follow their ‘gut’ more, not be constrained by the status quo around them.

The nature/nurture argument has been the subject of many blogs, and I’m not going to try to resolve that one here, but giving your children, and the children around you, positive messages and unwavering support is a vital component in programming their subconscious.

But it is never too late to influence your subconscious. The first time you do something your conscious mind queries (bungee jump/mathematical calculation/marathon run/etc) your subconscious mind learns that event has become an expected positive outcome.

The first time you make bonus, or sell a business…..or succeed at a job interview that was a stretch for you…..or gain massive benefit from employing someone a little bigger than your business needs, your subconscious learns and reduces its risk aversion – it changes its road map.  The winner of a motor-race is infinitely more likely to win after he/she has won their first race as their subconscious learns to spot and expect success.

Imagine if you could force that roadmap on your subconscious. Condition it to succeed. You can, but self belief is the first step. As the Tony Robbins quote states If you want success, find someone who has attained that success and copy them – you’ll get the same result”.

Back to recruitment. The jobseeker who believes he/she can do more, will be more open to new ideas, more willing to adopt a slightly higher risk profile and more likely to demonstrate hunger for the role that is a double advancement for them – and in recruitment, attitude (and chemistry) are everything.

Likewise when businesses recruit – especially business leaders/entrepreneurs. Ever wondered why some businesses grow so quickly? Or why individuals are able to make the transition from Entrepreneur to Business Leader. They have belief in themselves to find the right people to surround themselves with, to help them run their business, leaving them to focus on their own core entrepreneurial skill of spotting fresh opportunities.*

Case Study: Sir Richard Branson & the Virgin Group. Sir Richard has made a huge success of believing in his own success (and learning from his mistakes and failures) – but his prime success comes from his ability (and conviction) to surround himself with people who are better than he is in certain key areas.

Have you got that same ability/conviction?

If you want to develop into the type of person who is able to very easily attract much better health, wealth and success into your life, your primary task is to use your subconscious mind power to reprogram yourself for success.

“Whether you believe you can do something, or believe you can’t; You are probably right”…….If it can work for a 3 yr old girl, it can work for you.

*NB – helping businesses reduce the external risk of such appointments is at the core of our Guaranteed Search product. Guaranteed delivery in 8 weeks or your money back.


Pay Peanuts, Get….Old Etonians

Fat-Cat pay stories took an unusual twist over the last week in the wake of the Panama Papers leak and the UK media’s determination to find a story worth reporting.

Having seen that both the Prime Minister & Chancellor of the Exchequer have declared all income, and paid all due tax (in excess of 40% of their respective incomes), the media have then moved on to the Prime Minister’s income; £200,000 per year, including rental income and profits/dividends from investments.

This for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; the man who runs our country.Cameron That puts him in the lower quartile of his Eton alumni. And we wonder why most modern-era Prime Ministers have been independently wealthy.

…and yet, the media, the opposition and increasingly the more susceptible members of the electorate continue to slam him for it and seek to find any and every angle to find wrong-doing. Politics of Envy?

Such attitude and behaviour will only lead to even fewer talented people entering public life than they do at present.

The same thing happens in business. Three years ago I interviewed a FTSE-100 CXO with a view to considering them for a similar business stature CEO position. She was perfect for the job. Natural-risk-aversion, complementary sector, perfect skills-match and great chemistry fit with the rest of the board. However she immediately ruled herself out. Why? She just didn’t need the hassle. She had no need to turn her £7-figure annual remuneration into a larger £7-figure remuneration and certainly didn’t need the increased stress, hassle and intrusion into her life. Her quote? “I don’t need the Ego-trip and extra trappings of becoming a CEO enough to offset the intrusion into my life

This lady was already earning well into £7-figures, not a paltry £200,000. And she was one of 11 people running a £9bn business, not the leader of a £1.8tr nation.

Vilification of execs for no other reason than being high-achievers and high-earners is already dissuading increasing numbers of execs from climbing the corporate ladder to the highest levels…..and is one of, if not the key drivers behind poor representation of Women on Boards – as I discussed here.

Back to Cameron. Simply because of who he is, or more so, because of the role he has, he becomes vilified by the left, the left-wing media, and by millions who believe the headlines that such people broadcast.

From what we can see, Cameron has never taken any backhanders, he’s a loving/devoted husband, and he’s always been scrupulously honest.

The closest he has (as it stands at least) come to unscrupulous dealings, was the now infamous £19,000 profit he made from selling the shares he owned in his father’s offshore company in 2010, but he paid income tax on that in full.

However, to listen to his political opponents talk, you would think he was Al Capone.

Former Mayor Ken Livingston stated ‘He shouldn’t just resign, he should be sent to prison.’

What successful/intelligent leader would consider a political career in light of such groundless vitriol? And regardless of fact, be treated as no better than a common criminal?

But this is not just the preserve of the Right-hand side of The House.
Take Hilary Benn, the next-generation great white hope of the Labour moderates. His 2013/14 reveals he avoided paying substantial death duties on the £5m estate of his late father, ‘people’s hero’, Tony Benn….all thanks to the Socialist Firebreather’s careful tax planning.

Chuka-Umunna_2950770bChuka Umunna, the smooth-talking, self-titled ‘British Obama accepted just under £3,000 from a company specialising in tax avoidance, at the same time as calling on George Osborne ‘to close in on tax avoidance, close in on tax loopholes and deliver greater tax justice’.

David Miliband, still talked about as a future Labour leader despite being dumped in 2010 because the Unions preferred Wallace, hisMiliband the less rubbery brother. He set up a company called ‘The Office of David Miliband’ through which he channeled his non-Parliamentary earnings. By doing so, when he received a fee of £25,000 for a public speaking engagement, he only had to pay 20% corporation tax, rather than the 40/45% income tax he’d have to pay as a higher-rate taxpayer.

Ironically…this was the same dodge used by the blood-baying, anti-capitalist witch-kenlivingstone1811ahunter of Tory tax dodgers, Ken Livingstone. When forced to publish his tax return during the 2012 London Mayoral campaign, it emerged that in he’d routed £238,646 through his personal company, thereby saving himself £54,000 in tax! Ken bayed for The Prime Minister to be imprisoned after making £19,000 profit (and paying all Income Tax due); what would Red Ken think his own punishment should be for tax avoidance of £54,000?

Up until fairly recently, being a Member of Parliament was deemed a high status, aspirational occupation (or vocation?). MPs were seen as altruistic public servants who made huge sacrifices, personal and financial, in order to serve their country. They were rightly and duly respected.

They have brought large parts on themselves with their underhand dealing and (usually soft) corruption. Expenses anyone? But if we are going to pay them less than a Secondary School Headteacher, but still expect high intelligence, we need to expect bright people to know how to maximise their own finances, with the law.

Nowadays, MPs typically have a dire reputation and very minimal respect, ranked somewhere below Estate Agents (and Recruiters). Even proffering squeaky clean tax returns (even if filed late Mr Corbyn, and with no evidence of the income received from a well publicised lodger…!) will just provide the media and militant haters with more ammunition….as the disclosure of income and in particular, in Dave & George’s case, investment income and family wealth has already shown.

Wind back to the great leaders of this country over the last 100 years. What would Churchillhave happened to Winston Churchill, famously poor with his own personal finances, if he had been forced to become transparent? Would the Dennis Skinner of the day have berated him in a red-faced, schoolyard spat? Or if the Corbyn of the day, Hastings Lees-Smith, had forced transparency? The Second World War might not have had the same outcome.

In business as in Government, we need to return to celebrating successful people in this country, instead of repeatedly denigrating them. £200,000 is embarrassingly low for The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. There are over 300 other public servants that are paid more than he is. 35 people working on HS2, the head of the Civil Service, 50 people in Quangos set up following NHS reorganisations plus another 60 still within the NHS (not including Trust CEOs). And those figures don’t include the Executives residing in Local Government…..

As a country, and within business, we need to return to attracting the best. Not the best within a set of falsely limited parameters, the best, outright.

Within business, every Spring, we get the throng of media attention on CEOs as their pay awards are decided and announced. Perennial target Sir Martin Sorrell is rituallySir Martin Sorrell denigrated for his pay packet. Despite taking just £1.2m salary from the business he founded and still leads as CEO, WPP, choosing to have the rest of his remuneration based purely on performance, he still received media vitriol for his £8-figure bonus…..despite his business’s profits now rising to over £1.5bn this year.

The average FTSE-100 CEO earns £5m in total remuneration (in return for total FTSE-100 pre-tax profits of £100bn). That means a FTSE-100 CEO earns more in a fortnight, than our Prime Minister earns in a year (and a top footballer in less than a week). Why would you possibly go into politics if you were a well-educated, high-achieving leader; When instead you could opt for a vocation and earn the rewards of that vocation, in the entrepreneurial space…..…unless you were already independently wealthy?

If we want to change that, we need to attract the best, celebrate success, and accept a basic human right and instinct is to amass wealth to pass down to our children to in-turn invest into their lives and prosper.

Gary Chaplin HeadShot Logo

Gambling with Murdoch

Take a look at yesterday’s Sunday Times appointments section….or rather, the appointments page, gone are the days when it had its own section. It now struggles to even fill a whole page. And yet, there is still approaching £100,000 worth of advertising contained within that one page, with each advert costing £10-15,000.

Amongst them only one quotes a salary, and that is a ‘Chair’ role paying £16k pa, withGary Chaplin Sunday Times no mention of time required. Irrespective, it’s paying well below market rate (but then, they have an advertisement AND recruitment fee to pay…!)

Trying to read between the lines of these 7 advertisements, (which one has to, as most don’t give any real specific information) each of these roles is seeking to attract highly qualified, professional, upper-quartile individuals that will lead 7 leading/large/critically important organisations into a more prosperous future. Yet all 7 adverts are doing nothing to attract anything other than very active jobseekers, pro-actively trawling job pages, rooting out the Appointments sections, hidden in the back of one of the other sections, applying for roles that *might* be a fit based on Job Title, location or probably, their own ‘eagerness’ to find a new role.

ESP aside, such advertisements will do nothing to attract those Executives who are not actively seeking new opportunities. From my experience, majority of businesses recruiting at C-Level/Exec Grade want the best, and most consider that the best will typically be fully engaged, spending their time in their businesses, not trawling advertisements in hidden sections in the Sunday Papers.

All but two of today’s adverts have been placed by Executive Search firms, usually either indulging their own egos/PR through high-profile paper-based adverts, or fulfilling pre-agreed quotas with paper-based media. Either way, not the best use of client money.

…but others are organisations being ‘smarter’ and advertising direct, typically in ignorant faith that they can do just as good a job as a professional (one wonders if the same Procurement Strategy will see different HR middle-management don a wig and enter court rather than engaging an experienced legal professional?) .

The nature of such a method, state of the advertisements and criminal waste of organisations’ money and time with no guarantee of response, let alone a successful conclusion being proof about how un-commercial and misguided in-house recruitment departments often are.

Such an approach is dire, and tells a huge amount about how these organisations value their staff. When people are the key resource behind any organisation, and C-Level/Board Level/Execs are arguably top the list, the attraction of this prime resource should be given prime focus – not subject to a half-cocked approach.

Many of these 7 advertisements have been, or will be subject of heavily discounted, or even free reruns, as recruitment managers seek to mitigate a poor response by blaming the outdated process and media that they have foolishly chosen, and paid c£15,000 for the privilege. But it won’t be the fault of the in-house recruitment function protected with a Teflon coating that would make an Income Tax minimising Government minister proud.

The really tragic thing is, for the same cost that these eight organisations have incurred in placing a poorly written advertisement in dying media, I could have undertaken and concluded a full search process, committed [in most cases] to a 8 week turnaround and guaranteed the result with a 100% cash refund promise.

Even more tragic….by it’s very nature, a full Head-Hunting exercise will elicit those executives NOT (pro)actively job seeking, and NOT applying for any job advert vaguely appropriate – the quality of such individuals is typically significantly different.

But rather than ensuring that every penny is spent on a process with a guaranteed result, these organisations have adopted a *smart approach* that sees them incur the same costs but in blind hope that they will get a response in the first place (despite the advert’s shortcomings and lack of information)…..and that such a response will be of reasonable quality….and that they will be able to engage such a response into a recruitment process….and through a recruitment process….and to the point of a job offer to an executive that fulfils the roles criteria….and to that Exec’s acceptance of the offer.

Such a DIY approach is akin to an enthusiastic amateur tackling the construction of a complex house-extension; except a failed recruitment process has the potential for far wider reaching problems and opportunity cost.

A recent search process we undertook was for an organisation that insisted on advertising the opportunity publicly. The HR Director wanted a broad-sheet newspaper advertisement carrying a £13,800 rate card. We advised, via the CEO, to opt for a “premium” internet advertisement to cover the same criteria of external advertisement. The advert was a success. It elicited 1,029 responses. Of those responses, 4 were worthy of interviewing and none made the ultimate short-list. From our search, we had 24 contenders, 18 were good enough to interview, 5 were shortlisted and 3 were deemed worth offering the job to.

……the real irony is, the individual that secured the role admitted that she got the daily email alert from the site in question, she just didn’t read as she wasn’t actively looking….and assumed that most were fictitious roles used by “agencies’ to fill their database.

In-house recruitment functions DO have a significant place in recruitment and have revolutionised mass recruitment (usually through BPO), as well as the introduction of junior colleagues and future talent. Many without question add value by acting as a qualified, selfless intermediary between head-hunter and the business.  The time and cost saving in those areas can be immense – but most businesses undo such savings through the misguided belief that they can undertake executive recruitment using the same capabilities, competencies and processes that are effective at the opposite end of the corporate structure. Twice this year, I have had processes almost derailed by the time delays caused through the introduction of needless processes into executive search, introducing screening process used to hire graduates or ‘ground-level’ hires that in-turn, dissuade exec and senior managerial candidates.

Most forward-looking businesses are catching up on the realisation that advertising and passive strategies just don’t work any more. There is little surprise that all of yesterday’s advertisements are from either the Public Sector, or the Third Sector. Last FullSizeRender week’s appointment section did have two of the three lonely advertisements from the Private Sector. One was actually a Franchise Partners advert, the other, ironically, looking for HR Directors.

There is still a long way to go however. In the quest for ever more skilled talent, in ever more competitive market, passive approaches to find that the ‘unicorn’ candidate are a risky approach.

Gambling on the attraction of Executives and business leaders is akin to putting your company profits on the roulette wheel. Put your faith in a HeadHunter…not Rupert Murdoch.

Contact me to understand how to get a guaranteed successful conclusion to your recruitment process.

Gary Chaplin HeadShot Logo

New Year/New Challenge? Market Review of 2015…£1m of Live Roles for 2016

Happy New Year!

The beginning of 2015 saw unprecedented activity in Executive Search, activity levels which only increased as the year developed, mirroring business confidence and general economic optimism.

That momentum was carried into 2016, even before it began, with over £1m of live vacancies to start our New Year. Details on those below.

2015 saw salary levels begin to increase across the board (& not just the Board) – first time for 5 years, although package values and in particular performance rewards have increased significantly more. Salaries are still not up to the over inflated 2007 levels, but package values are already significantly higher.

Soft and Hard Equity has made a very real return to executive packages, with over 25% of the role we were retained on last year including equity participation.

Another positive metric for 2015 was seeing over 75% of retained roles being newly created opportunities, plus all replacement roles offered a higher package/terms.

Positive news also for Women On Boards. Despite the ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ nature of hitting Lord Davies’ arbitrary-set 25% female representation on FTSE-100 boards, female placements bounced back from 2014’s 41% back to very nearly 50% (and a last-minute 23rd Dec offer going to a male candidate rather than the female candidate was all hat prevented breaking 50%! The average female remuneration was nearly 20% higher than 2014 at £112,000 (but still behind the average male salary of £128,000).

Further encouraging trends included the volume of young businesses we worked with. Over 30% of our retained roles were with businesses that didn’t exist in 2010, all with 2015 financial turnover of over £2m, and all forecasting over £5m turnover within 3 years (two forecasting over £20m in that time).

Sector focus has been more varied than ever. Our top five sectors in 2015 were Digital, Retail, Bio-Science/Pharma, Technology and Manufacturing. Commercial/Sales roles still topped the most sought function but Operations/General Management closed the gap significantly in 2015.

Talent scarcity became a very real problem for businesses in 2015. Over 75% of business leaders cited Top Talent attraction as the biggest threat to their business growth/expansion plans in 2016. Proof of the challenge was further demonstrated by seeing over 30% of our retained work being picking up processes from clients who had seen less effective recruitment methods fail.

…So what of 2106?  Quantity and Quality of opportunities is almost certain to2015-16 continue to improve. Expect salaries & packages to continue to grow faster as top-quality candidate availability becomes more difficult. We can also expect to see more innovative approaches to attract top talent, as well as greater attraction measures – Creative packages and Wealth Creation/Equity on offer.

And to get the new year off on the right foot, we start with £1m of live mandates [See list below….Click Job Title for further details]

But first: Peruse our recruitment guides: 

CV Tips 
First Impressions at Interview 
Competency Based Interviews: What to ask. How to Answer
31 Hacks to Help Your Next Career Move
20 tips to turn your next Video Interview into an Oscar winner
Interviewing. 20 Questions That Could Make All The Difference
Getting Noticed by HeadHunters
What to do WHEN you get HeadHunted.

£500-1000/day + Equity
Entrepreneurial B2B group recently gone through an MBO backed by one of the UK’s most respected PE-houses. Next step is to appoint a highly experienced and energetic Chairman to guide the management team through the next phase of the business’s ambitious growth plans and steer them towards the next transaction/exit.

Managing Director (Equity Potential)
Private-Equity Backed Group

Commercial Bio-Science/Healthcare Group
£90-120,000 plus exceptional package including equity.
Outstanding opportunity for a commercial, sales background Managing Director to join an immensely exciting, Private Equity Backed, high-margin Group. The business has seen their market explode, and has huge opportunities to be gained from devising both operational and commercial strategies with the ultimate objective of driving profitable growth.

Head of Digital/Digital Marketing Director

£100,000 + Exec package & Wealth Creation
Outstanding opportunity for an experienced Digital Marketing Director, to lead a highly innovative marketing team and head-up this marketing-led B2C/Retail/e-Commerce/OmniChannel group.

Sales Director 
£90k + Package/Equity
Highly impressive B2B wholesale group, responding to recent growth and accelerated development plans through the appointment of a focused Sales Director to drive growth over £100m

Interim Finance Director
Market Leading Home Improvement Group
M40 Corridor
£500/day (c£100,000 + Package/Bonus/Equity when Perm).

This is an amazing Interim-to-Perm opportunity to join one of the UK’s leading Home Improvement, Kitchen/Bathroom supplier, a highly entrepreneurial group currently seeing significant growth

Chief Financial Officer
Northern England
c£80-100,000, plus exceptional Executive Package Plus Equity
This is an outstanding opportunity to join one of the most exciting Technology Service Start-Ups in the region.

Finance Director 
£80-100k + Package/Equity
Great board-appointment with one of the UK’s best known niche high-street retailers. Full remit over all financial and commercial matters, working closely with and reporting to the Group CEO.

Operations Director
Digital Agency
£50-60k + Package
Amazing success story; Ground-breaking Digital agency that has grown from inception to a multi-million pound business in just over 3 years. Shunned away from convention in the ways they operate to stand-out in this highly competitive industry. This appointment is in direct response to that growth, taking full day-to-day responsibility for the business and it’s operations.

Sales Director
Innovative Start-Up
£80k + Package & Equity
Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join a well-funded, highly innovative embryonic start-up. Having recently launched their patented prototype, they have already had £multi-million interest from major global corporations, from several huge markets and different industries, as well as interest in providing further investment capital from both the UK and US. Driving sales is now a key focus through the appointment of this executive, equity holding appointment

Sales Director/Customer Engagement
£80k + Package
Outstanding opportunity to join a market leading Aerospace Engineering Group. Highly commercial, relationship-led appointment tasked with further penetrating into the global Aerospace Sector where they already have not only an outstanding reputation, but are almost without exception, already working close with. This is a role to take already open doors and push them further open.

European Brand Manager 
£70k + Package
Career accelerating opportunity for an up and coming Brand specialist/professional to join a major UK-based, prestigious wholesaler and spearhead their European sales and relationships. Working with some of the most high-profile brand names across the globe.

Online/Performance Marketing Manager
Exceptional opportunity to join a well-funded, entrepreneurial, market leading eCommerce business in a newly created, business critical role. The role sits on the Senior Management Team with influence across the business and a responsibility for all eCommerce and Digital performance, strategies and development.

Property Director 
£70k + Package
This is a great opportunity to join one of the country’s most exciting retailers as Head of Property, taking responsibility for both ongoing management of this rapidly growing estate, but moreso the challenge of new store acquisition, the role is an exciting challenge for a retail property professional and a fantastic time to join this high-growth, debt-free business.

Head of IT 
Outstanding opportunity to join a high-profile, high-quality, omni-channel retail business. The appointee will have full responsibility for the group’s IT Operations and IT Infrastructure teams.

Sales Manager/Director Designate 
Technology Group
£50-60k + Package & Equity
This young business is already a success story. Two years into existence and their turnover has broken through £1m with £2m in sight for year 3. A critical part of that acceleration is to bring a hungry experienced Data-Centre Business Development Manager/Sales Manager into the business, with the expectation that the individual will rise to Sales Director

Business Development Manager
Digital/Creative Sector
c£50-65k + Excellent Bonus & Package
Outstanding opportunity to join, and be a key part in the future of one of the country’s most exciting, high-growth and new digital marketing agencies. This management appointee will take a key responsibility for the business development across a national portfolio.

Group Marketing Manager 
£50k + Package & Equity
Great opportunity to join an entrepreneurial, innovative young business supplying both SME and Corporate Markets with market leading consulting, technology and support services through traditional infrastructure and cloud-based solutions. This Senior Management Appointment is tasked with managing the day-to-day marketing activities of the organisation and long-term marketing strategy for the company.

Head of Commercial Trading
Outstanding opportunity to join a true market leading, household name group. Known for both consumer and B2B offerings, across various ‘consumables’ product sectors, dominating majority of the verticals they operate in, this is the chance to make a name for yourself as they dramatically increase their exposure to the education sector.

Strategic Sales & Marketing Manager
Digital Marketing Agency
c£40-50k + Bonus, Package & Share Scheme
Highly commercial role for a marketing aware sales manager to join a business, rich with inbound enquiries, and assist in the conversion of these enquiries into profitable sales. Taking a Marketing Consultative approach, this role is as much about understanding, interpreting and responding to potential customer requirements, and formulating a proposed approach to secure the win, as it about hardline sales growth – although the objective is the same!

Business Development Manager – Web/Tech Sales
Digital/Tech Sector
c£40-50k + Excellent Package
Outstanding opportunity for a web and technology platform solution sales professional to join, and be a key part in the future of one of the country’s most exciting, high-growth and longest established digital/tech agencies.

National Account Managers (FMCG)
FMCG Wholesale
£60k + Package
Chance to join an established market leader and assume responsibility for a huge range of premium branded products into a large spread of clients from major multiples (Big-4 supermarkets/Top-10 Sector Retailers) right through to niche specialist retailers, offering the entire portfolio of this impressive business’s product range including numerous exclusive.

Buying Manager/Senior Buyer
£60k + Package
Exciting opportunity for an experienced Senior Buyer (or ambitious Buyer) to join a very well established and expanding luxury brand wholesale business; An unrivalled market leader, innovator and hub of both business and consumer markets, their growth and profitability are unparalleled in their market(s).

Senior Merchandiser 
Luxury Brand
Outstanding opportunity for a career-hungry Merchandiser to join one of the North’s leading and most exciting retailers.

Gary Chaplin HeadShot Logo

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot?

Happy New Year!

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot? Ok, it’s a rhetorical question asking if old times should be forgotten and more generally a ‘call-to-remember’ long standing relationships.  As a Head-Hunter, old acquaintances and long-standing relationships are the back bone to my USPs, and my life.  But what of the past?

Christmas and New Year is a great time of reflection, looking back on the past year – The highs, the lows. The wins, the challenges. The lessons learned and how life has moved on & developed.  But should any of it be forgotten?

Two great quotes:

Live like you will die tomorrow; Learn like you will live forever” – Mahatma Gandhi
I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.” – Tony Robbins

Good or bad, I’m an optimist, an opportunity engineer and a proponent of positivity. Carpe Diem, #JDFI and grabbing (then maximising) opportunities. I largely believe that regret is a wasted emotion and I despise negativity.  “Whether you believe you can do something, or believe you can’t; You’re right” — another of Tony Robbins’ mantras from his book, Unlimited Power.

Releasing the past

Everything I know has come from what happened in my life, right up until this moment – and everything I will do in the future will be based on past experience and knowledge – so to forget it is irrational.  But we need to take the knowledge, the lessons, the experiences, the results….. then positively release the past and turn to focussing on, planning for and expelling our energy on the future and what it can bring.

We stood and launched Chinese Lanterns (non-metal-wire variants!), to welcome in 2016. It was a highly symbolic activity. Having spent a lot of this festive season reflecting on the past 12 months (and the past few years), and more importantly, in planning/assessing the various options that will start 2016 for me – seeing a large paper balloon literally filled with hot air tugging at my hands, willing to be released before finally lifting into the calm night sky was highly emotive and immensely motivating.

As it soared above our neighbour’s houses, over Wilmslow town centre, then high above the Cheshire countryside disappearing onwards and upwards – it’s flame was still visible for several minutes, highlighting it’s trajectory, taking 2015 higher and higher, further and further away; leaving me with the knowledge gained from the year but filled with energy and excitement for the new year just starting.

Embracing the future

If you can’t you must, if you must you can

These next few days have the potential to be the most powerful of the year. The fresh start, the ability to set (additional) objectives and the latent energy built up over the festive season, all provide the ability to springboard into the new year. But to coyne yet another Tony Robbins quote “The path to success is to take massive, determined action”.  Having left the past, but retained the knowledge gained we can plot the course into the new year without that ballast that we carried at the end of the last.

More than ever in 2016, the new year holds great challenge and great opportunity for me. A2015-16 still fairly young business operating in a growth market, family, daughter getting older, ambitious charity plans and a host of self-set personal challenges to tackle, it is an exciting place to be.

Last Verse

Auld Lang Syne finishes with “And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give us a hand o’ thine!….”. It is a great reminder that people are everything. Yes, they are the basis of my profession, but more importantly they are the backbone to life. Family, friends, partners but also the many many people who made 2015 such a year through their support, advice, assistance, comfort and entertainment.  I’m honoured to have you in my life and call you friends.  Let’s kick arse in 2016.

Live life fully while you’re here. Experience everything. Take care of yourself and your friends. Have fun, be crazy, be weird. Go out and screw up! You’re going to anyway, so you might as well enjoy the process. Take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes: find the cause of your problem and eliminate it. Don’t try to be perfect; just be an excellent example of being human.Tony Robbins

Competency Based Interviews: What to ask. How to Answer

Competency Based Interviewing is often seen as a dark-art from the mystical world of HR. Or just BullS**t. Truth is, it’s neither. Many of my clients scoff at HR functions that use highly scripted CBI questions, decreeing them as far too fluffy. And they can be right at that.

I’m vocal about interview style. My style is laissez-faire and conversational. As discussed here, I don’t play the interview game. I choose a relaxed approach and relaxed questioning AND discussions to understand the interviewee (having got the harder-nosed investigation out of the way before the interview). And yet I incorporate Competency Based Interviewing as part of my approach. It fits.

Competency Based Interviewing is a more conversational means of getting real world examples out of candidates, and crucially, it gets them talking about their own experiences. For good, relevant and high-performing candidates, this works really well. It puts them well within their comfort-zone and relaxes them. Only for candidates seeking to over-sell or embellish experience does it become more stress-inducing. Great way to separate wheat from chaff.

Little wonder then that they are becoming increasingly popular as a way to predict a candidate’s future performance….and fit within the interviewers business. Not only is proving a workable solution to CBI questions a key, highlighting a solution that fits with the businesses style and culture is a fantastic tool and provides invaluable (and unparalleled) understanding. It also provides great topic to verify at referencing.

What are they?

So what are Competency Based Interviews?

Essentially, they are “Give me an example of…..” questions. More structurally, a series of behavioural questions where the interviewer will ask you to describe a situation which demonstrates your abilities that will be integral to the role you’re interviewing for. An easier way to describe is to give examples.

There are five prime areas/competencies that are typically explored (or any number of). Individual Competencies, Managerial, Analytical, Interpersonal and Motivational. They break-down as below:

Individual competencies
These refer to:

Your personal attributes; your decisiveness, tenacity, knowledge, independence, risk taking and personal integrity.

A typical question may include:

  • Tell me about a time when your work or an idea was challenged.

Managerial competencies
These refer to:

Your ability to take charge of other people; leadership, empowerment, strategic thinking, corporate sensitivity, project management and managerial control.

A typical question may include:

  • Tell me about a time you led a group to achieve an objective.

Analytical competencies
These refer to:

Your decision making abilities; innovation, analytical skills, problem solving, practical learning and attention to detail

A typical question may include:

  • Tell me about a time when you identified a new approach to a problem.

Interpersonal competencies
These refer to:

Social competence. Many workplaces function on the basis of project teams and the more collaborative they are, the more likely they are to thrive.

A typical question may include:

  • Describe a situation where you got people to work together.

Motivational competencies
These refer to:

The things that drive you; resilience, motivation, result orientation, initiative and quality focus.

A typical question may include:

  • When did you work the hardest and feel the greatest sense of achievement?

Further examples of Competency Based Questions:

  • Give an example of your sales skills.
  • Give an example of a project in which you were involved that required your teamwork skills.
  • How do you deal with stressful situations?
  • How would you assess your ability to bring about change?
  • Give an example of a significant decision you made in your last position.
  • Give an example of a change you initiated in your organization.
  • As a manager, do you direct the project or the people?
  • Describe a success of yours as a manager.

In competency based interviews, the interviewers could also be interested in hearing how you contend with failure or conflict. For instance, a question may take one of the following forms:

  • Give an example of a conflict you had with a customer and how you responded.
  • Give an example of a conflict you had with your superior and how you responded.
  • How would you resolve a state of competition with a team colleague?
  • Describe a failure of yours as a manager.

The trick to answering competency based questions

Answers to competency based questions are very structured, so we recommend the STAR technique, describing:

  • Situation – Think of a situation where you applied the competency in question.
  • Tasks – Explain what the tasks (and/or issues)
  • Actions – Describe the actions you took to fulfill those tasks.
  • Results – Highlight the results that were achieved.

In more detail:


Describe the situation that you were confronted with. To adopt the STAR approach, you have to set the context and make the example obviously real. The more personal (and connected) the example, the more relevant…and the more it will be personal to you, giving you the chance to tell the story and get emotional connection.

EG – The situation may be where you had to deal with a difficult person. You need to provide context. How you came across that person, why they were being difficult, how that difficulty manifested, developed, causes behind it, etc.


Tasks follow on from the Situation. Once you have set the context, the tasks will give detail of the example; but from that, make your answers concise and informative. More importantly, concentrate solely on what is useful to the story and the example being sought. Too much of a story and you will lose relevance…and interest.

EG – If the questioner is asking for an example of teamwork, once you have explained the situation, detail and explain the task that you had to undertake as a team.


Action is without question the most important section of the STAR approach. This is where you will need to demonstrate and highlight the skills and personal attributes that the question is testing and marry it into the example behaviour you need to demonstrate.

Once you have set the context through describing the situation, then detailed the tasks in hand, your story becomes set. Next you need to explain what you did. Make sure you:

  • Be personal, i.e. talk about you and your actions, not the rest of the team or team outputs.
  • Go into detail and describe everything and all actions steps and milestones. Don’t assume that they will guess what you mean.
  • Steer clear of technical information and jargon, unless it is crucial or adds value/essential credibility to your story.
  • Explain what you did, how you did it, and why you did it:

What you did and how you did it
The interviewers will want to know how you reacted to the situation. This is where you can start selling your capabilities by including and promoting some important skills. EG – you may want to describe how you used the team to achieve a particular objective and how you used your communication skills to keep everyone updated on progress etc.

Why you did it
The why is as important as the ‘what’ and ‘how’, and often as important as the outcome. EG – when discussing a situation where you had to deal with conflict, many candidates would simply say: “I told my colleague to calm down and explained to him what the problem was”. Nothing wrong with the answer but it would not provide a insight into what drove you to act in such a manner. How did you ask him to calm down? How did you explain the nature of the problem? By highlighting the reasons behind your action, you would make a greater impact. A better response would be:

“I could sense that my colleague was irritated and I asked him gently to tell me what he felt the problem was. By allowing him to vent his feelings and his anger, I gave him the opportunity to calm down. I then explained to him my own point of view on the matter, emphasising how important it was that we found a solution that suited us both.”

A fuller, more emotive answer helps the interviewers understand what drove your actions and reinforces the feeling that you are calculating the consequences of your actions (and alternative actions), thus retaining full control of the situation. It provides much more information about you as an individual and is another reason why the STAR approach is so useful.


Explain what happened eventually – how it all ended. Why it worked, why the potential outcomes were maximized. Be humble, highlight where the outcome could have been better, or beneficially different and discuss the learning process that came from that – learning from actions is vital, the ability and willingness to do so is very attractive to an employer.

Regardless, use the opportunity to describe what you accomplished, how you developed yourself as well as those around you, and what you learnt in and from that situation. This helps you make the answer personal and enables you to highlight further skills.

The result is probably the most crucial and decision-enabling part of your answer. Interviewers will want to have demonstrable insight that you are using a variety of generic skills in order to achieve your and others objectives. Therefore you must be able to demonstrate in your answer that you are taking specific actions because you are trying to achieve a specific objective, not simply by chance.


Remember, be yourself when answering competency-based questions. These are designed to give you a platform to use real-life examples from your background and relate them to your skillset and future capabilities, highlighting the relevant aspects of your past experience, how you reacted or how it made you feel.

CBI questions are not trick questions. They are designed to provide a platform where truly relevantly experienced candidates can draw upon their own experiences to create the best match between an individual and an organisation. That said, whilst much of the ability to answer (and the experiences you draw upon) should be second nature, a little bit of preparation and you’ll quickly realise that competency based interviews represent an unprecedented opportunity to describe some of your finer moments to a captive audience.

The best preparation you can do is to cast your mind back to your career and non-career achievements and ensure you have numerous examples for each of the five main competencies as listed above. The most-self critical feedback I get from even high-achieving, senior execs, coming out of Competency Based Interviews is that their ‘mind went blank’ when seeking an example of XXXXXX.

Be prepared. With preparation, the competency based question is a candidate-biased medium. Use the STAR technique to shine.

More on Interviewing Here:

Interviewing. 20 Questions That Could Make All The Difference

Think Different. Think Chemistry Fit.

An Interview on Interviews


121 Example Competency Based Interview Questions:

Communication skills interview

  1. When you have had a boss, in the past, who fails to adequately communicate with you, how have you handled this?
  2. Give me an example when you had to present complex information in a simplified manner in order to explain it to someone?
  3. Give me an example when you had to present complex information in a simplified manner in order to explain it to someone?
  4. Tell me about a time when you had to be very careful in communicating delicate information. What was the possible risk involved and how did you go about it?
  5. What steps do you take to establish a rapport with others?
  6. Describe five things about the communication within an organization that must be present for you to work most effectively?
  7. Describe a time when you took extra effort to make sure the person with whom you were communicating with had really understood your point. How did you do this?

Cooperation skills interview questions

  1. Give me an example of a situation where you helped your colleague perform a particular task in which you had better knowledge on the subject?
  2. Can you tell me about a time when you backed off in a meeting because you felt someone else should speak or have an opportunity?
  3. Tell me about a time when you acted as a mediator to help colleagues resolve their differences
  4. How would you show co-workers the importance of co-operation?
  5. Give me an example of a time when you tried your best to work with someone, but the problems still remained
  6. What did you learn from that situation?
  7. Give an example of a time when you assisted a co-worker to enhance their work skills?
  8. Tell me about a time when you had to help a co- worker who had made a bad mistake. What did you do?

Creativity based interview questions

  1. How often do you discuss and work with colleagues to think up new systems and styles of working?
  2. Have you ever tried a new way of doing things? Did you succeed?
  3. Tell me about one case when you tried to solve a problem with a totally different approach than is normally used. What was the result?
  4. Can you tell me about a situation, which you tried to solve a problem with ideas and methods that had not been tried before?
  5. Tell me about the most interesting idea that you’ve learned outside of education?
  6. What well-established professional practice are you skeptical about?
  7. How do you express creativity in your life? What is your art? What has this expression brought to your life?

Customer focus interview questions

  1. Describe a time when you made meeting and exceeding customer requirements a driving force behind your activities and decisions
  2. Share a time when you actively gathered information to measure stakeholder satisfaction. How did you gather the information? How did you use it improve service?
  3. Describe specific methods you’ve used to build relationships and gain the trust and respect of key stakeholders
  4. When have you had to deal with an irate customer? What did you do? How did the situation end up?
  5. Tell me about a time you have “inherited” a customer. What steps did you take to establish rapport with them? What did you do to gain their trust?
  6. How have you handled a situation in the past where your client has changed the brief or “changed the goalposts”?
  7. When have you ever gone out on a limb to defend a customer? What happened?

Cooperation skills interview questions

  1. Tell me about a time when you acted as a mediator to help colleagues resolve their differences
  2. How would you show co-workers the importance of co-operation?
    Give me an example of a time when you tried your best to work with someone, but the problems still remained. What did you learn from that situation?
  3. Give an example of a time when you assisted a co- worker to enhance their work skills?
  4. Tell me about a time when you had to help a co- worker who had made a bad mistake. What did you do?
  5. Give me an example of a situation where you helped your colleague perform a particular task in which you had better knowledge on the subject?
  6. Can you tell me about a time when you backed off in a meeting because you felt someone else should speak or have an opportunity

Conflict management interview questions

  1. Describe a time when you had a disagreement with a colleague at work
    How did you manage to work it out?
  2. Tell me about a time when you had to work through some negativity to get some work done
  3. Describe a time when everyone in the meeting was opposing your ideas
    How did you manage to work it out?
  4. How would you handle a conflict between you and higher management?
  5. Tell me about a situation when you were given job instructions and you were unable to comprehend the instructions. How did you go about completing the task?
  6. How do you manage to work with people whom you are not comfortable with? What do you do in such situations?
  7. Tell me about a time when you helped to successfully mediate in a conflict? How did you feel?

Critical thinking interview questions

  1. What did you play with as a child?
  2. If you could describe Gin, Beer and Wine as people, how would you describe them?
  3. What is the chance that at least two people were born on the same day of the week if there are three people in the room?
  4. If you walk into a liquor store to count the bottles unsold, but the clerk is screaming at you to leave, what do you do?
  5. Are you a good decision maker?
  6. Do you always take the process on your own? On what occasions do you recognize that you need other’s help?

Decision making interview questions

  1. Are you firm on your decision? How many times do you regret a decision or you reconsider or change decisions?
  2. Describe the most difficult decision that you had taken till date. What made it so difficult?
  3. Can you elaborate about the decisions you reach quickly and the ones you take more time?
  4. If you come across a situation where you have to choose between a highly experienced candidate and a highly qualified but not so experienced contender for promotion, what would you decide?
  5. What do you believe is the best way to take decisions, independently or by seeking guidance?
  6. If you come across a situation where you have two or more options to accomplish a goal, and each one as good as the other, which option will you choose?
  7. How do you react when you have to make important decisions but have to make them quickly?

Delegation skills interview questions

  1. What tactics do you use to motivate others to complete delegated tasks? Provide examples?
  2. Have you ever delegated a project to someone that you probably shouldn’t have? Why did this happen? Were there any repercussions? What was the resolution?
  3. Describe for us your biggest delegation mistake. Why did you make it?
  4. What do you think are the most common excuses team leaders use to not delegate?
  5. Discuss with us the last time your supervisor delegated a project to you
    How did you handle it? Were you able to complete the project on time and accurately?
  6. Do you feel there are situations where one should never delegate? Why or why not?
  7. Has there ever been an instance in your career where you had to delegate something but there was no one else to take on the work? What did you do? What was the outcome?

Interpersonal skills interview questions

  1. What personal characteristics are necessary for success? Give me an example of when those characteristics have lead to success
  2. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would that be?
  3. Who had the most influence on your career? On your life? Why?
  4. Tell me about your closest friends – their personalities, interests, occupations
  5. Describe your overall relationship with most bosses you have worked with
  6. Describe your personal style, work style, management style
  7. Who was the best colleague you have worked with and why? Who was the worst?

Leadership competency based interview questions

  1. Explain a situation where you served as a leader during: a competency based project, an organized work project or activity, or a community service project
  2. Explain in detail your role and how individuals responded to your leadership
  3. Explain a situation where you had an opinion that differed from a manager. Were you able to persuade the manager to change his or her opinion?
  4. Explain a time when subordinates you supervised disagreed with your directives. How did you handle it?
  5. How do you resolve conflict? What specific strategies have you used to be successful?
  6. If your managers were asked to rate your leadership skills, how would they reply? What would subordinates say? You decided to reorganize the department or work unit that you lead. Tell me how you proceeded with the reorganisation?
  7. Have you ever been a member of a successful team?

Listening skills interview questions

  1. Are you capable of getting to the bottom of a situation, when some one is incapable of communicating what they really mean? If so how do you achieve this?
  2. Relate an occasion when you withheld your own opinion, and tried to obtain the opinion of others, and why was this action important?
  3. Describe an incident when you had to listen attentively in order to act quickly enough to meet a deadline
  4. Give an example of a time when you had to ask direct questions to bring out diverse opinions on a central issue
  5. Give an example of when you have had to deal with situations when others are finding it hard to communicate effectively with you?
  6. What do you do when someone is deliberately giving you vague, dissembling, or even obstructive information, which hinders your ability to complete a task? How have you dealt with that?
    Describe an incident when you had to listen attentively in order to act quickly enough to meet a deadline?

Management skills interview questions

  1. Examples of strategic thinking in past situations
  2. Have you ever challenged, shaken old work methods
  3. What methods have you used to evaluate employee’s job performance?
  4. What experience do you have in setting budgets?
  5. What systems have you developed and implemented to improve operating efficiency in your department?
  6. Tell me about a tough decision you had to make recently at work , how did you go about making the decision?
  7. How do you make your decisions in general? Give examples

Motivation skills interview questions

  1. Describe the work environment or culture in which you are most productive and happy
  2. Describe a work situation in which you can demonstrate that you encouraged the motivation of another person
  3. Observing your own team, in your current or a past job, describe what motivated their best performance
  4. You are assigned to participate on a team that has several members who are not motivated to work hard and contribute How have you in the past approached this motivation situation?

Negotiation Skills interview questions

  1. When was the last occasion that you were given an assignment to develop your mediating skills, and what was the conclusion?
  2. What skills have you used when you have needed to influence the way other people think?
  3. When your credibility is compromised, what steps do you take to rectify the situation?
  4. Do you need to make your attitude more positive when marketing yourself and your ideas to others?
  5. When was the last occasion that you had to use your negotiating skills to bring about a resolution that was in everyone’s best interest?
  6. Do you need to make your attitude more positive when marketing yourself and your ideas to others?
  7. When your credibility is compromised, what steps do you take to rectify the situation?

 Organisational skills interview questions

  1. Illustrate how you prioritize each day’s tasks?
  2. What do you do when a project is not coming to fruition as expected, because of inefficient planning?
  3. What steps do you take when the work of a colleague threatens the completion of a project?
  4. Tell me about a time when you managed a complicated project
  5. Tell me about a time when you worked under a tight deadline
  6. Tell me about a time when you had to multitask
  7. Tell me about a time when you took on more than you could handle

Problem solving interview questions

  1. What are the frequent problems you have been facing in your current job which you would like to get rid of, but have not solved it yet?
  2. Illustrate an experience when you had to put your fact finding ability to solve a problem. How did you scrutinize them and reached a resolution?
  3. What types of problems are you called upon to solve in your current position?
  4. Describe a situation where you had to adapt and manage change but were having problems. What did you do?
  5. How did you handle your most challenging experience in your current job?
  6. Describe the problem and the way you collect info and establish a problem solving model. How did you build that troubleshooting process?

Teamwork competency based interview questions

  1. What are the characteristics of a successful team? Give an example of how you have fostered those characteristics
  2. Have you ever had a role in a team project where your role was not clearly defined? How do you handle this?
  3. When your team encounters a problem, such as irritation with another co-worker, how do you reach a good resolution?
  4. Give an example of a successful project you were part of. What was your role? Why was the project successful?
  5. Describe a situation in which you had to arrive at a compromise or help others to compromise
  6. What was your role? What steps did you take? What was the end result?
  7. Describe a team experience you found disappointing. What would you have done to prevent this?
  8. Tell us about an unsuccessful team of which you were a member. What, if anything, could you have done differently?





10 Top Manchester Roam-Working Venues. (Mindfulness at Work)

I’ve always been classed as a Maverick, never more so than with interviewing. It’s ledGary Chaplin Maverick to my biggest career arguments spanning 20 years:

  • My interview training back in 1994 that insisted interviews were a scientific process.
  • The 60+ yr old Executive Search stalwart in 1999 that reprimanded me for being conversational, and smiling, during an interview.
  • The recruitment MD that insisted interviews were all about wrestling control; promoted their interviews as being the toughest around; and held a WWII plane-side tally of Executives their interview style had ‘broken’ in an almost Luftwaffe/Alfred Grislawski fashion.

But I disagreed. And I’m still right. The biggest question my clients ask at Shortlist is “What is he/she like….?”.

Providing an answer that “they interview well”, or that they didn’t “break during a Nazi-esque interrogation interview”, won’t answer that question, or give insight into what each candidate is like.

By the time a process has whittled over hundred targets down to a shortlist of 4 or 5, ability to do the job is a foregone conclusion, the only question to answer is that of cultural and commercial fit.

As I described in my blog Think Different. Think Chemistry Fit. (No Such Thing As Bad PR),……it is all down to Chemistry Fit! A control-fought, scientific, Luftwaffe interrogation (without smiling) isn’t going to uncover that.

Think Different.

Steve Jobs maintained Think Different at Apple. My different is my focus on Chemistry Fit, and for that reason, when I started my business, I took the decision never to interview in an office again. Nor in a suit/tie.

My objective is to understand the interviewee. To see their true personality, not their defensive, over-cautious, interview personality. Keeping them in their comfort-zone is important. By the time I interview for a role, I have spent at least a day with my client, in their offices wherever confidentiality constraints allow, all in the name of understanding the business, the people and it’s culture. The Client side of the Chemistry Fit equation. Matching Candidate-side Chemistry Fit relies on the ability to gain insight into natural, not adapted personalities.


…..but there is more. I discovered the principles of Mindfulness some time ago (watch Andy Puddicombe’s brilliant 9min TED Talk if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

A key aspect of Mindfulness is to break conscious and subconscious routines (and the interaction between the two). Changing where you work, even changing desks, is a great way of doing that. I discovered changing where I worked had huge gains to my productivity, the quality of my output, and my own well-being. The same thing applies to candidates in interview. Having them in a different, more unusual setting, is like a defibrillator for the conscious mind.

Roam-Working – My Top 10 Manchester Locations

The growth of Mobile Connectivity has brought infinite possibilities for general working whilst out and about. No longer do we need to find office space or business centres to be effective when not in the office.

All that places need is WiFi, power, workspace and ideally coffee/refreshments on tap. Few places struggle to tick all boxes, but what are my favourite Manchester locations to work, and even more so, interview (in no order!)


Inside Club Brass

Club Brass at Hotel Gotham
Private Members club above the new Hotel Gotham, top of King Street. This place is tailor-made for Roam Working, and for Maverick HeadHunters. Only £500 per year membership, but it brings great quiet, refined, high-class and discreet surroundings, fast WiFi, numerous charging points, ample quiet spaces, perfect selection of high quality drinks and food (and it’s outstanding restaurant, Honey) and it’s pièce de résistance, three outdoor terraces, 7 floors up, all with views across the Manchester skyline. It also brings an aura of exclusivity being a Private Members Club, and gives an automatic concierge to greet guests.

Gotham outdoor2GothamInside3Gothamoutdoor3

Manchester House

Manchester House

Manchester House, Lounge on 12
Very similar to Club Brass, without the Private Members Club exclusivity but with the now familiar and well proven Living Ventures excellent execution. Similar level of service to the Hotel Gotham club, numerous different areas and seating arrangements, rooftop views and a strong range of refreshments (although Gin selection could be better….!). Sat atop Aiden Byrne’s Michelin Star vying Restaurant, option for food is arguably better – but public accessibility means that daytime/afternoons can be busier and louder.

MHManchester HouseManchester House

PKB – Pot Kettle Black
A true favourite. Quirky but an extremely homely artisan coffee shop in the Barton Arcade. Founded by St Helen’s Rugby Stars, Jon Wilkin and Mark Flanagan, they mix great informality with great coffee and a different approach to bland international coffee shops. Loads of charging points and great WiFi (and the added privacy of their Wing-Backed chairs if you need), PKB is a superb informal meeting spot and Hot-Desking/Roam-Working favourite. They even run BootCamp training sessions, early in the morning on the roof of Barton Arcade…!

San Carlo Gran Café
The latest of San Carlo’s Manchester offerings, found in the basement of Selfridges. Italian flair, to say nothing of Italian coffee and a range of Italian desserts & Torte (try the Tiramisu!). San Carlo Gran Café is also home to the finest Full English Breakfast in Manchester – a steal at less than £8. Good wifi and a lack of power outlets make this a more relaxed meeting place than a top Roam-Working venue, but with gastronomical delights like this, you’ll want to share the experience.
San Carlo Gran Cafe 2 San Carlo Gran Cafe

Rapha Cycle Club
This may be a new one for most. Rapha, market leader in Cycling gear have a café on King Street. No really. OK, so it overlooks King Street, but with it’s entrance on St Ann’s Passage. Just have a look above Crombie on King Street, you see a tell-tale Team Sky bike in the window. The café is very cool, quick WiFi, great coffee and a very unusual set up, especially for the cycling fan (although the shop that you walk through can be a dangerous gauntlet to run). The only downside is the lack of power sockets leaving it a short-haul stay, unless you have a full and well-functioning Mac/Laptop battery.
RaphaCafe RaphaCafe2 RaphaCafe3

The AlchemistAlchemist
Long-term favorite of mine, recently extended to give a more varied offering. My favourite window-side sofa has gone, but the flexibility of seating options has increased. Busy at lunch and post-work, but with opening hours from 10am, it gives a great, bright and central meeting point in the middle of Spinningfields.

Great John Street
Another little gem tucked away to the south of Spinningfields, a boutique hotel set in a converted school. Several character filled rooms – especially the Library; service as you would expect from a leading 4-star boutique hotel and a great rooftop terrace, again offering views across Manchester/Castlefield.
GreatJohnStreet3GreatJohnSt GreatJohnStreet2

Manchester Escalator
A more unusual space, set up almost exclusively for Roam-Working, but with a public coffee shop and a full presentation auditorium. Set under the arches of the Great Northern Warehouse complex, the Manchester Escalator is a Barclays funded project offering the Roam-Worker a full office set up from meeting rooms to collaborative working. Class leading technology and the ability to host events of any nature make this a compelling, very different option
ManchesterEscalator ManchesterEscalator2 ManchesterEscalator3

Yes there are only eight above. Watch this space for more recommendations…..

…..or send me your favourites for inclusion here!

Further afield…..


The Snug

The Botanist – Alderley Edge
Perennial favourite of mine, again recently extended with a new upstairs area and now includes a fantastic ‘snug’ upstairs which has fast become a favoured spot for interviewing as well as Roam-Working. Fast WiFi, great service, full selection of food & refreshments (and Gin) and one of the most unusual surroundings and imaginative environments around – The Wild West meets Victoriana. Also boasts four separate outdoor areas.

Cook & Baker – WilmslowCookAndBaker
Independent Coffee Shop with a real flair and style. Centrally located, very good WiFi and plenty of power points. Full Coffee Shop refreshments and fantastic own-cooked artisan foods and cakes. Closes at 4pm but opens early. Be aware of the ‘Cheshire Yummy Mummy’ rush just after school run times.

Alderley Edge Café – Alderley Edge
Village CafeCheshire take on the ‘greasy spoon café’, but a very upmarket version of. Always busy, a real ‘it’ place for breakfast – more Cheshire business(wo)men can be found breakfasting here than at forced networking events. Great WiFi, owner-managed levels of service and Cheshire’s best Fry-Up plus the healthy alternatives (try the off-the-menu ‘Nick Bianchi’ Omelette) for those breakfast meetings….

CorksOut – Alderley Edge
…and at the other end of the day, this is a great option for late afternoonCorksOut onwards. What started off as an Off Licence with a couple of seats, has developed into a fully fledged bar, with outdoor seating area,…and a little boutique Wine/Spirit Merchant at the rear of the store. Fantastic setting, good WiFi (and the ability to piggy-back off next-door Gusto’s if needs be), a great selection of premium drinks (and a healthy Gin collection for consumption and off-sale), with the added benefit of having highly knowledgeable staff to introduce you to some unusual refreshments. Feels just like meeting/working in a high-class wine cellar.

Café Tuscano – KnutsfordCafeTuscano
Hidden gem in the centre of Knutsford. A true Milanese style café based on Regent Street. Bags of charm, great coffee, good WiFi and a ton of Italian flair, all based 5 mins from M6 Jct 19, perfect daytime meeting venue, inside or out….

Old Sessions House
…..then later on in the day, New Moon’s Old Sessions House is a perfect venue. Again good WiFi, loads of ‘nooks and crannies’ to work in, hide in, meet people in, all in a very welcoming atmosphere.
Old Sessions HouseOld Sessions House

Crewe Hall – M6 South (Jct 16)
Firm favourite for southerly meetings, especially for US interviewees. A former CreweHall217th Century manor house, build in 1612 by Sir Ranulph Crewe (who spent a fortune and 24 years building it). Now a Q-Hotel, but still retains its old-world charm….and very much like interviewing in Downton Abbey. Good WiFi and a typical ‘large hotel’ level of service and refreshments. Be aware of a ‘no-devices’ rule from lunchtime onwards in the main lounge so as not to disturb ‘Afternoon Tea’.

More Mobile?

Gary Chaplin Car WorkingOf course with the increase of mobility, so does Roam-Working portability. Back garden, holiday balcony and an increasingly useful option of using your iPhone 4G Mobile Hotspot to work from the back of your car between meetings (or while waiting for your daughter’s weekend dance class to finish….)

Holding meetings/interviews in some of the places above and Roam-Working in even more, holds huge benefit and means you get more of a buzz, and greater productivity when you get back to your traditional office:

31 Hacks to Help Your Next Career Move

Earlier this month, approximately 8.3m school pupils returned to school for the new school year. If the other 8,299,999 were anything like my daughter, the end of summer and beginning of the new school year brought a mix of emotions – part excitement, part dread.

At the same time, 31m adults likewise ‘returned’ to work after summer, many returning to a period of normality after a summer which saw light nights, warm(er) weather, holidays and overall a little more life in their work/life balance. The mix of emotions was not unlike the 8.3m under-16s.

Decades after leaving school, we still view our year in terms of the school year. September, despite being the 9th month, is a ‘return’ and the beginning of the long slog to Christmas. Just under 4 months when nights get darker, temperatures get cooler, and the longest period with no public holidays. All this against a backdrop of weeks of summer. Little wonder that September to November is the busiest time for people to look for, or be open to, a new job. 1-in-6 people will look at a career move in the next 12 weeks; that’s over five million people.

So how do you stand-out against your 5m competing job seekers?

Start with two of my favourite quotes:

If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first six sharpening my axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
The path to success is to take massive, determined action” – Tony Robbins

In other words….Preparation and Hard-Work. Sounds easy? You’d think, and yet the volume of people who are wholly passive and seemingly uninterested in expelling any effort into their job search leaves those who do in a significant minority, and with a huge advantage.

So what can you do to prepare and maximise effort (and chances) on the job market?

Having a strong and effective CV is always the predominant tool in anyone’s job search. So big, we devoted an entire blog to it: CV Tips: 20 thing to do,…20 things to avoid

But there is a whole lot more to your job search. 31 Hacks to get you ahead in your career search.

1. What do you want?

Crux of any job search. What are you searching for. For most, pair it back to what it is that you don’t like, or aren’t fully satisfied with in your current role. Then seek to fix it. If it is all about money, this is where you approach your boss/MD and ask for defined objectives to attain the earnings you crave.

For everything else, draw a list of what you would like to see in your next role, and beyond. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” is a dreadful interview question, but a great self analysis tool – especially if it is followed up with, what do I need to do to get there.

For those at a crossroads, and/or unsure what the next steps look like, I suggest drawing up a list of your achievements. Pulling out of that list the things you enjoyed doing, then pulling out of that list the things that are marketable or replicable. That gives you a list of marketable skills, that you enjoy, are good at and have demonstrable ability to deliver.

2. Network

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. An overused adage perhaps, but very very relevant. Most of the best jobs are found by the most effective networkers, whether by networking with HeadHunters (here’s how), business owners, executives or professional advisors. Networking can uncover job opportunities that never hit the open market, as well as arming you with first-rate intelligence to help you shine during any selection or interview process, as well as the potential to lead to a foot-in-the-door.

Draw a list of appropriate targets and design a strategy to (re)connect with them. Remember, networking is a two-way process though. Focus on existing networks (friends/family/(ex)colleagues/Alumni as well as your potential network – targets yet to be connected with them. Start with your existing network, reconnect where necessary, focus on being social and helpful. Then establish where you have gaps in your network and draw up a plan on how (and where) to get introduced and start meeting people at carefully mapped events/conferences/seminars/etc.

3. Be vulnerable.

Not only is it “OK” to ask people for advice, it can be a great door opener. Gone are the days when you have to be the over-confident ‘know it all’ to get a role, humility and accepting selective knowledge gaps is attractive (backed up with the initiative to fill the gaps). Asking for advice from those who know is a great personal marketing approach. Often the best way to build relationships with people whom you’d like to work with/for is to start by being vulnerable, sharing your admiration for their work, and asking for advice. Once you have understood what you want and where you’d like to do it, your next step should be seeking to connect with professionals at companies you’d love to work for, long before they have a job opening.

4. Social Media

If you are not on LinkedIn, get on! LinkedIn is not overly effective at locating top talent, and thus not used by majority of headhunters and professional recruiters in that, but it IS used to verify details and gain useful insight.

Once you are on LinkedIn, make sure your career history is accurate, upto date, comprehensive AND that is correlates to the details on your CV. Make sure your profile picture is appropriate and professional. Assume prospective employers WILL cross-check your career, WILL see which contacts you have in common and WILL seek to gain a holistic overview of your professional demeanour. Make sure published articles and papers are detailed – being seen as a thought leader is very attractive to prospective employers.

5. Beyond LinkedIn….

Social Media doesn’t stop at LinkedIn. Adopting one of the more serious Social Media platforms can have greater impact that you realise. Twitter will always be the top performer in this regard for me. Not only is it a perfect means of getting to know, understand, stalk and interact with your target prospects, it is a great and concise platform where you are able to share, create and engage with topical content whilst building the persona you desire and spreading the correct message about your professional demeanour and wider life.

I blogged about the true value of Twitter here: What’s Twitter Worth To You (Spoiler: More Than You Think). It has become my prime source of business, and saw me make over £100k in 6 months….it is even more effective as a job searching tool. But….

6. Be Aware Of Your Digital Footprint

Social Media can make your Job Search and place you at the top of the pile…but it can also break it. Before you start your job search, clean up your trail on all Social Media platforms. Check postings for spelling and grammar. Remove unprofessional photos and inappropriate comments (remember that year in Aya Napa/XXXX’s Stag Do…etc). Removing historic conversations, unless highly pertinent and appropriate for your search is a very strong move – taken in isolation, lengthy conversations can sell against you.
For more information on this, and tales of how bad a Digital Footprint can be, read here: Recruitment and YOUR Digital Footprint

7. Don’t follow your passion.

“Follow your passion” is one of the most overused pieces of career advice. Often true, but not always. Following what you are good at, (especially when most others aren’t) makes for better advice. Author Cal Newport, whose book So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. is at pains to point out that majority of people whose work/business is their passion started the work, then grew the passion. Developing skills, improving marketability and setting yourself up as (near) unique, will exponentially improve career prospects. Skills over passion.

8. Create, don’t wait.

Majority of Job Seekers are lazy. They’ll write a CV, stick it on an Internet Job Board, register with a couple of generalist ‘database’/generic recruitment agencies and wait for a call. The smarter job seeker doesn’t just sit around waiting for their “dream job” to open. They study the industry and/or field that they work within, or are looking to move into, and determine the most attractive businesses/market leaders in that field before making an approach. (See No.3, Be Vulnerable, above). Aside from picking up on latent plans within a business to recruit, by presenting a solution before the problem has been created, any designed spec or wishlist will be designed with you in mind.

Develop the concept further by writing a blog/article addressing challenges/offering solutions to the business or industry in question.

9. Aim High.

Especially with a proactive approach, but also in response to a direct job advertisement, aim high. Unless expressly dictated in an advert, drop a line to the CEO or known firing manager. Show initiative, set your concise argument out as to why you should be considered for that role in that business. Perform a SWOT analysis where relevant; tie-in relevant exposure and achievements; introduce and demonstrate your (relevant!) passions. Make the recipient smile and the next step will be a face-to-face meeting.

10. Learn how to listen, and read.

Job seekers are so caught up in conveying their message and image to the employer that they often fail to listen, or read. If applying for a role, ask yourself repeatedly if you are right for the role described. If you don’t have XYZ experience or an ABC background when both are requested, applying will not only most likely be futile, it risks being black-marked for future, more relevant opportunities.

Once you get past the first hurdle and reach a call or interview, the skill becomes listening. The art of conversation is the ability to listen, not speak. Know when to talk, when to stop talking, and when to ask questions. Practice your interview skills with an experienced interviewer.

11. Don’t present yourself as out-of-work.

Honesty is key on any CV or application, but recognising how your experience reads is vital. Never put an end date if you haven’t finished your current role. If you have finished, consider what you have been doing since. Anything relying on your professional capability is comfortably classed as consultancy work.

12. Don’t leave mid-career gaps

Make sure your whole career is accounted for; gaps will read as unemployed, unmotivated, unable to get a job…or worse. Be aware that recent stints of ‘travelling’ may raise alarm to prospective employers.

13. Make stories.

CVs are about facts. Succinct, detailed, accurate, pointed facts. But once the process becomes discursive, tell the story of your career, and of each role. People remember stories, they make you appear human and more believable. At interview, the interviewers want to hear your tale, the story of your career, how it grew and how you developed. Again, practice it. Remember it’s a conversat