Job Interview

Should you Recruit from Outside your Industry?

Job InterviewWhenever I take a job spec from a client I always ask the question, “would you consider someone from outside your industry, with no sector knowledge?”

Unsurprisingly, the majority of the time my clients are seeking someone from within their industry, ideally with knowledge of the products, the market and potential customers and invariably the reason given is that they can “hit the ground running”

But is this necessarily the best answer?

Interestingly when you look at the appointment of CEOs in large blue-chip companies the successful candidate often comes from outside the industry with little or no sector knowledge but with proven leadership skills, the main prerequisite for the role. They will then spend their first few months acclimatising to the new industry, observing and learning before taking putting together their own management team and taking control of the business.

So why is it that, if this works at the top of a company, it isn’t applied when recruiting sales people?

It is perfectly logical to think that by hiring the candidate with industry knowledge they will automatically make a fast start, they will need less training, the induction process will be easier and they will be making you money sooner. But, by making the obvious choice you are losing the opportunity to recruit some excellent candidates, high calibre sales people who, with no preconceived ideas of what is right for the industry, can bring a fresh perspective to your sales team boosting sales in ways you could not have imagined.

It is much easier and cheaper to teach someone about a new product range than it is to train them on sales skills so rather than making the obvious hire, why not broaden the search and and make your number one requirement “A proven sales record” …in any industry

As the economy continues to grow it is going to become increasingly difficult to find skilled people from within specific industries. Setting very specific recruitment criteria and not broadening your search can make for a painful, long-winded recruitment process.

By broadening the search, widening the net, and recruiting on the basis of abilities and attitudes rather than industry experience, you are allowing yourself a much wider pool of candidates who are the “right candidate” which inevitably will lead to better hiring decisions in a shorter time. Good for business?

Twelve Mistakes to Avoid When Recruiting

mistakes to avoid when recruitingFinding the right person for a role is difficult enough so it’s best to avoid shooting yourself in the foot by making mistakes in the recruitment process. Here’s my list of twelve mistakes to avoid when recruiting plus a few tips.

Write a list of essential skills and experience and stick to it throughout the recruitment process.

Take time to think about the role and the person. Even if it is a job that you have recruited for before, it’s always worth taking a fresh look at things. Has the role changed, is now a good time to review things, are there any extra skills that might be useful in a changing business or marketplace?

The temptation when you’re short staffed is to rush into recruitment. Recruit in haste ….repent at leisure.

Hire for the future. What plans does your business have? Is now a good time to recruit someone with the skills that you will need in twelve months’ time. This works well for the business and also gives the successful candidate a way to develop and take on additional responsibilities. What better way to make them feel valued and keep them motivated?

Don’t just automatically look for someone with the same skill set as everyone else on the team. It’s tempting to stick with what you know but some diversity, extra skills, varied experience and new ideas can strengthen a team.

Never take a gamble on someone who hasn’t got the necessary skills and experience. The cost of a mistake in recruitment is too high. Maybe you really clicked with someone at interview, but if they haven’t got the skills and experience that you need, that you defined at the outset, liking them is not a good enough reason to hire them. Sales people spend their lives building rapport, so you would expect to like them at interview. Stay objective!

At interview ask for specific real examples of how they have worked before. Ask for evidence. You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive so don’t recruit until you have satisfied yourself that they are capable of fulfilling the role.

Always always reference. If their previous employer has gone out of business (quite common these days) ask for client references. A good salesman should be happy to supply these.

Avoid aggressive interview techniques. I know that the “Apprentice” TV show seems to suggest that these are all the rage at the moment but remember that the candidates of today could be the clients of tomorrow and with social media becoming more and more popular you can soon find your reputation in tatters and future recruitment even more difficult.

Use the recruitment process to set realistic expectations of the job. That way, when the successful candidate starts they will know exactly what is expected of them.

Sell your company and the role. Interviews are two way streets. I have seen plenty of job offers turned down because the interviewer failed to sell the role or the company.

And finally………..let people know how they did. Give honest, helpful feedback. You might be the other side of the table one day!

job counter offer

The Counter Offer – Worth Considering?

job counter offerYou’ve decided to change jobs.  It was not an easy decision.  A lot of thought went into it but you finally decided that now is the right time for the next move in your career.

You’ve put together your CV, spoken to people you know within the industry, updated your LinkedIn profile, registered with a couple of well-chosen recruiters, applied for jobs, taken time off from your busy workload to attend interviews, sweated over presentations and interview preparation and after months of effort your dream job offer has just landed in your inbox.  It’s time to give notice…..

But now, the MD wants a word……..

The counter offer from someone’s current employer is one of the most common reasons for turning down a job offer.

A higher salary, enhanced commission structure, more flexible hours, the promise of extra responsibility or career development, a better car and perks.  The counter offer can take lots of different forms and can seem very attractive but should you take them seriously.

What is the motivation behind a counter offer?  Why are you suddenly worth more today than you were yesterday?  Why did you have to give notice in order to be appreciated?  What does it say about how your company sees you and how will they think of you in the future?

What has really changed?

Counter offers are flattering and can seem tempting.  It’s the easy way out, the path of least resistance.  Stay where you are, selling products that you know to a customer base that you are familiar with and earn more for it.  Why not?

Sounds good…..but what’s the downside.

Firstly. Why did you decide to change jobs in the first place?  Has the counter offer dealt with the reasons?

If you decide to accept a counter offer from your current employer you may well find yourself feeling just as dis-satisfied in a few months’ time because the original reason will still be there.

Sure, the extra money, longer holidays etc. will all make it feel better in the short term but whatever prompted you to start job hunting will still be there and…..six months or a year from now you will likely regret your decision.

Does this mean that you should never accept a counter offer?

Absolutely not.   But….accept it for the right reasons, take the time to think about why you were unhappy and ask yourself if those reasons have really been addressed.  Has your boss really listened to and addressed your concerns or have they just come up with a short term fix to keep you on the team while they plan how to cover the situation next time you hand in your notice.

Best Questions to Ask at a Sales Interview?

Millions of pages have been written on job interviews from both sides of the fence.  Whether you are interviewing or being interviewed there are thousands of people queuing up to take your hard earned cash in return for advice on what are the best interview questions.

Stick “interview questions” into a search on Amazon and you will come up with around 46000 results in book, CD and DVD format, and the number is growing daily.  If you want some free information, simply Google “Interview Questions” and browse through the five million answers.

And the great thing is, that with everyone having access to the same information there is a fair chance that, whichever seat you are sitting in at an interview, you will already know the best questions to ask at a sales interview, you will know all the tried and tested questions and answers.

So, perhaps we could all save some time by cutting to the chase and asking a simple question.

“How are you going to do this job in order to make me money?”

I appreciate that this could be seen as a bit simplistic, but everything in a sales interview should be focused on finding the person who is going to make you as much profit as possible in as short a time as possible.

Rather than have the sparring match of prepared questions and answers that everyone knows, why not simply have a discussion around how they will do the job, what will they do on a daily basis to generate profit for the business.

And, if you are sat the other side of the table, make sure that you know the answer to this question and use your time in the interview to focus the discussion around it.  After all, being a salesperson, you should be used to steering conversations!

How to make your CV Readable

How to Make your CV Readable

How to make your CV ReadableIt is estimated that recruiters take somewhere between six and twenty seconds to skim read a CV in the initial stage of the recruitment process and it is only if you get past this first stage that you have any chance of securing an interview and, ultimately, the job.

How to make your CV readable…….. so that it doesn’t fall at the first hurdle?

If you could spend a day walking in my shoes, I suspect that you would be amazed at the quality of CVs that I receive from so called sales professionals.

If I’m honest, I would have to admit that the majority of CVs that I receive get about thirty seconds of my time before they are condemned to the unsuitable file.

They simply, don’t sell.

If you are doing a sales presentation, you do your research first.  You ask lots of questions, establish a need and then sell a solution that fits the need.

Basic sales skills… why do so many sales people forget all their sales training when it comes to writing a CV?

Why send out a generic untargeted CV when you are applying for a job?

Getting the right new job is probably the most important sale that you are going to make for the next few years.  Mess up the sale, make the wrong sale and you are potentially condemning yourself to years of misery.  At the least, you are heading for a disappointment.

Okay….you won’t always be able to ask loads of questions but read the job ad, read the job description, understand what the recruiter is looking for and make sure that they see it in the first few lines of your CV.

Put a personal profile at the beginning of your CV and tailor it to each role that you are applying for.  If they want an experienced business to business sales professional from the widgets and gadgets industry with experience of dealer management, and you are one, then make sure that you tell them.

Don’t stop there.  Emphasise the relevant points in your CV.  Pick out the parts of the role that you are experienced in and make sure that they stand out on your CV.

Recruiters are busy people.  We hate spending time reading through CVs so make it easy for us.  Put the important information under our noses, give us a reason to read on, get our attention, generate some interest and make a sale!

Do's and Don'ts of CV Writing

The Dos and Don’ts of CV Writing

Do's and Don'ts of CV WritingIt’s very easy to feel completely overwhelmed at the thought of writing a CV, especially if you have been working for any length of time. How can you possibly fit your entire career onto two pages?

But don’t panic. Most recruiters don’t want the War and Peace version of your CV. What we want is the relevant information for the role that you are applying for.

You don’t need to write your entire life history. Think of your CV as a sales document, almost a sales proposal. The aim of your CV is to tell the recruiter that you have the right qualifications and experience to do the role that they are recruiting for.

Here are the Dos and Don’ts of CV Writing:


Put your jobs in reverse order starting with the most recent. The most recent is usually the most relevant. Include the company name and your job title. Don’t leave us guessing.

Include a one line description of what each company does.

Bullet point your duties. Bullet points are easier to read and you can also focus your experience on the role that you are applying for without needing a total rewrite of your CV.

Include skills and accomplishments in job descriptions and quantify them. Percentage growth figures, achievements against target and volume of sales all read well and get attention. Shout about your achievements. Top salesman? Then say so.

Include dates on all jobs and explain any gaps in employment. Leaving dates out suggests that you have something to hide.

Put in a personal profile at the start of the CV that identifies your strengths. These are the skills that move with you from job to job and the skills that will help you to do your new job effectively so make sure that the profile is relevant to the role that you are applying for.

Put education towards the end of the page. Unless you are a recent graduate applying for graduate positions, your degree should come after your work experience. Include vocational training courses that you have been on and any further education as these demonstrate that you update your skills and knowledge.


Write long paragraphs. Someone reading a CV wants to be able to quickly pick out the key points. Bury then in a paragraph of text and you will quickly lose their interest.

Make your CV too long. Two pages is the accepted length. Three at a push.

Forget to proof read, spellcheck and proof read again. Better still get someone you trust to read it through. You can be blind to mistakes when proof reading your own work.

Leave the recruiter guessing. Make sure that you explain what a role involved. Job titles in one company can mean something completely different in another.

Copy paragraphs from one job to another even if they were similar.  Repetition looks lazy and is likely to make the reader stop reading

Leave any questions unanswered. Make sure that you explain any gaps, give reasons for leaving different roles.

Remember that when you are applying for roles that have been advertised you are one of dozens of CVs landing on the recruiter’s desk. They want to whittle that pile down as quickly as possible so make sure that your CV sells you to the best of your ability and doesn’t give them an excuse to reject you at the first read.

Ageism in Recruitment

If you start researching ageism in recruitment on the internet, you will very quickly come across a number of discussion groups where the posts tend to suggest that ageism, although illegal, is still very much a part of the UK recruitment scene.

There are many discussions and forums full of disgruntled forty, fifty and sixty year olds who feel that they have been overlooked when applying for jobs simply on the basis of age.

But how much of the alleged ageism that people talk about is real and how much is simply their reaction to the normal frustrations of job hunting.

Ageism in recruitment does exist.  I am convinced of that, but attitudes are changing and I genuinely believe, from my own experience, that more and more companies are open to the idea of recruiting older candidates as long as they can demonstrate that they are the best person for the job.  At the end of the day, why would any company want to recruit anyone other than the best candidate?

A poorly written CV is still a reason to turn someone down whether it is written by an 18 year old or a sixty year old.

Lack of relevant work experience, an unsteady work history, poor qualifications etc. are all genuine reasons for not employing someone.

Most employers now strive to demonstrate an equal opportunities approach to their workforce and their working practices so why should it be any different in the recruitment process.  To do otherwise can prove expensive and time consuming for companies.

Job hunting is incredibly frustrating and in a job market where there are so many people competing for jobs it is not surprising that people become frustrated at continual rejection but, before you play the age card, take a long hard look at what you are doing.

Does your CV really sell you?

Do you have the relevant experience and does your CV demonstrate that?

Are you personalising each job application to the role or have your job applications developed a level of complacency?

Are you aiming at the right jobs?

Do your skills match the jobs that you are applying for?

When you can say yes to these questions every time that you apply for a job, then maybe you can blame ageism, or maybe you’ll be working again.