How to make the most of recruitment agencies

Hiring is difficult for everyone concerned. The average job seeker sends their CV out in all directions, only to sit waiting for feedback. On the other side of the spectrum, Employers spend hours analysing mountains of CVs, struggling to find a good match for their position. It has been estimated that between 7 and 20% of the salary for a position can be spent trying to fill it and that this process tends to take around 30-45 days. Solving these problems is just where recruiters come in. Able to find out exactly what both employers and job seekers are looking for, recruitment agencies are in the position to hugely speed up the hiring process. So how can you really make the most of a recruitment agency? And what should you take into consideration before choosing one?

With more than 4186 recruitment agencies in the UK and nearly 1600 in France, you should give time to deciding which one is best for you. Recruiters in general fill all kinds of jobs, from nursing to administration to manual labour. For this reason, many recruitment agencies specialise in a particular sector. Some recruiters even arrange training for candidates relevant to the specific sector, enabling them to build up skills and become more marketable. The ideal in choosing an agency is to go on recommendations. Find out if people you know in your field have any experience that they can share with you. Call up an agency you are considering and have a chat with a consultant. This way you can get a feel for the agency. Ask yourself; “Do they have my best interests at heart?”, “Would they get back to me with useful feedback?” and “Do they invite two way communication?”. Check the agency’s online credentials too. Pro-active, up-to-date agencies usually update their websites regularly and have an active social media presence.

Once you have chosen your agency, what should be done to make the most of it? Well, recruitment agencies handle the job search process on behalf of their client, lining up candidates who might suit a role.  Good recruiters pride themselves on really getting to know both candidate and client, making them well-equipped to make the best possible fit. For this reason, it is vital that candidates liaising with recruitment agencies do the following in order to benefit from the full potential of the relationship.

Honesty is essential. Tell your recruiting consultant as much about what you are looking for as possible; your ideal salary, sector, hours and so on. Holding information back or giving them what you feel is the right answer will only hinder their chances of finding you a great match. You build up a relationship with a recruiter, so start as you would in any other relationship; by being honest! This – like all relationships – takes two. Find out as much as possible about your recruitment agency and do a background check or get a recommendation before signing up – but more on that later!

Keep in touch. Just signing up to a recruitment agency doesn’t mean that you’ve automatically got a job. There will definitely be waiting involved, but this isn’t an opportunity for you to sit back and relax. Stay on the ball and take an active role. Check your agency’s website regularly, as offers will usually be updated there (which is definitely the case for TM International!). Call every week or so to let them know that you are still interested, but know where to draw the line between taking a keen interest and badgering your recruiter.

Be Realistic. Although any recruiter will understand your urgency, you are not their only candidate! They will have the same sort of questions coming from different candidates from all directions, so be realistic in what you expect from them. Remember that a recruitment agency is just a support to your job search. It may be a fantastic support, but be realistic and don’t forget to do your own research as well!

As long as you are realistic, choose an agency wisely and listen carefully to the advice that these experts in their field have to give, then seeking the help of a recruiter really can make a huge difference to your job search.

Good Luck!

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Confidence at work: Do you acknowledge your own abilities?

In a recent blog about first impressions, I talked about body language and how first judgements on a person can be made within seconds, perhaps even when they’ve barely said a word. Your level of confidence is one of the things that come across in this first impression.  Appearing to lack confidence is a definite negative in the workplace. Seeming nervous or ill at ease reflects badly on you and your skills, making others less likely to trust your abilities or entrust challenging or important tasks to you.

Lack of confidence in the working environment is not at all unusual and there are many reasons for it. Perhaps you are in a job where you feel insecure about whether your skills match up to requirements? Maybe you feel threatened by having less experience than others around you? Or perhaps you have a poor relationship with your boss or peers? Many people aren’t even aware that their confidence could do with a boost. Although of course it can’t be made accountable for all problems in the work place, a lack of confidence and self esteem can in fact be the underlying cause of a lot of problems, such as bad relationships with co-workers or a lack of acknowledgement of your achievements, for example. Furthermore, a lack of confidence can lead the way into a vicious cycle. If you underestimate your own abilities, you might procrastinate or turn down tasks where you feel out of your depth. If others notice this lack of confidence, or lack of completion of challenging tasks, they may well consider you less capable than you really are. They might then be less likely to consider you for important tasks, thus quite possibly lowering your own self confidence and taking you back to the start of the cycle. To avoid such a scenario, it is clear that any confidence issues really do need to be addressed.

It might seem that feigning confidence is easy – just be more assertive, right? Well, aiming to be more assertive in a working environment is a risky business. There is a fine line between being assertive and being arrogant, a line which you don’t want to cross in the workplace. Arrogance or overconfidence could lead you to take on projects that you are ill-equipped to deal with and that will show you up in the end! Talking up your abilities can make you come across to your peers as off-putting and superior. Let’s face it, a self-assured, competent individual is unlikely to relish feeling superior. The real aim is to be able to communicate in a clear and effective manner so that your skills show thanks to what you do, not what you say.

The key to really being confident is to know yourself. Make sure to identify your weaknesses. Rather than continually avoiding tasks that you feel ill-equipped to perform, make a plan to work on any weaker areas. You should also of course identify your strengths and capitalize on them. Use your skills whenever possible and make sure to reflect on things that you have done well. If your role at work isn’t giving you enough opportunity to benefit from these strengths, then perhaps you should find a position that will!

A part of knowing yourself is of course to be aware of the impression that you make on the people that matter. Take a step back and think about how you act, speak and move. What effect is the way you project yourself having on others around you? Consult a friend whose opinion you respect and trust. Others often notice a lot about us that we are unaware of. They will be able to give you an idea of how others see you and what points you might want to work on. This could help in reverse too. Consider people around you who you consider to be confident and competent. What is it about them that shows their confidence? Emulate this behaviour.

Emulating behaviour is a particularly useful technique if your role model’s confidence shows through their body language or voice. Standing tall, with your shoulders back and your tummy tucked in will work wonders. This posture not only improves your appearance, but also improves breathing and circulation, helping you look and feel composed and in control. Considering tone of voice is important too. While 38% of human communication comes from speech, only 7% is based on the actual words, with the rest left up to the way you say them. Speak clearly, using inflection to punctuate your sentences. Pace your speech well – rushing will show nerves. Make sure to listen, smile and nod when appropriate. Strong, positive body language and a great speaking voice will combine to show you to be a confident, authoritative individual.

Don’t aim to change everything at once. Take on small projects that are challenging but manageable to boost your confidence through their completion. Think about things that you did particularly well and look for opportunities to use these skills again. The absolute key to true confidence has to be believing in yourself and your talents. After all, why should anyone else if you don’t?

Does it pay to be bilingual?

We have all heard that having a good grasp of a foreign language is a great skill to add to your CV. Despite this, the study of modern foreign languages in Anglophone countries is decreasing rapidly. This fact has been highlighted in the media recently by the huge lack of qualified language teachers in the UK. So what exactly are the benefits to being bilingual? And what languages best equip you for a successful job search?

Companies in all sectors who conduct business overseas consider bilingual employees to be a highly valuable commodity. Let’s take America as an example. Two thirds of US business executives have one thing in common; the ability to speak more than one language. Furthermore, a recent careerbuilder.com keyword search resulted in more than 1000 job postings for bilinguals in the USA alone. Research shows that employers are prepared to pay big money to secure the bilingual workers they need. In the USA, bilingual pay is often between five and 20% more than that of a similar monolingual position. Despite these clear advantages of being bilingual, only 18 per cent of Americans are actually able to speak a second language.

Monolingual job seekers are ignoring numerous advantages of a bilingual CV. Linguistic competence enhances career prospects, travel opportunities and salary potential. A further advantage is the increased potential for career progression, an especially important consideration for those in the administrative field, where job flexibility and evolution can be hard to come by.

So if you’ve been convinced that being bilingual is worthwhile, which language is best to learn? Well that depends on your priorities.

An obvious one to cover is if your interest in language learning is to enhance travel opportunities – simply learn the language of a country where you would like to seek a job!

Another motivation is of course the wish to increase your value as an employee. The more professional contacts you are able to communicate with, the more appealing you are to an employer. The most spoken languages worldwide are Mandarin, English, Spanish and Arabic, with English, French, Arabic, Spanish and Russian topping the list when considering languages used in an official capacity. As well as considering how widely a language is spoken, it is also useful to research which languages are favoured by different sectors that you might be interested in. Given the current climate, the expat life is becoming increasingly competitive and more than three million Brits currently work abroad, so choosing the right language to develop is essential.

Mastering a more unusual tongue is of course another great way to get ahead and make yourself stand out. Chinese and Arabic for example are used in an official capacity in organisations such as the UN. It should not be forgotten however that these as well as Japanese and Korean are amongst the hardest languages for a native English speaker to learn, so will without doubt require a huge amount of time and dedication.

We should not forget old favourites like French and German. French is the most recognised lingua franca second to English and is used in both NATO and UNESCO, while German is useful for central Europe. It is also worth remembering that it is far easier to gain fluency in a language such as French, German or Spanish than it would be in Chinese, for example. While a basic knowledge of a language is useful when on holiday, a very high level needs to be reached for use professionally.

So all in all, you must decide what it is that you want from a language before you can really decide which one is best to learn. Once you have gained fluency, don’t underestimate your skill. It is usually the position that is considered bilingual – not the employee – so as long as you find yourself a position where you really can use your linguistic skills, then yes, being bilingual really does pay off!

What is the key to a good first impression?

We all know that the ultimate aim of every interviewee is to make a good impression on the person interviewing them, an impression that will end up landing them the job. So the most important thing in making this great first impression will always be giving appropriate answers to questions asked, asking imaginative and appropriate questions yourself and explaining your suitability to the role, right?

Arguably, the above are not the most important considerations at all. Research shows that one person will form an initial impression of another within 20 to 30 seconds of meeting them. In one study, untrained subjects were shown the first 20 seconds of interview videos and asked to comment on the candidates. On the whole, their reviews were very similar to those given by the actual interviewer, who had spent a whole 20 minute interview with the candidate. This example shows that a first impression really does last.

Before thinking about the day of the interview, it cannot be forgotten that your interviewer will in fact have an impression of you before they even meet you; the one they gain from your CV and cover letter. An impeccably written, clearly structured CV and cover letter are vital. They will give you the opportunity to clearly demonstrate the manner in which you approach work and are your gateway to the real opportunity to give a good impression – the interview.

So now onto the big day. What exactly does an interviewer take into consideration in those first 20 seconds?

The answer to this question can be found by thinking about what exactly happens in the first 20 seconds of meeting an interviewer. Punctuality is of course vital and a lack of it is a sure-fire way to make a bad impression before you’ve even made it through the door. The next step in the process is the way in which you present yourself. The first thing that anyone sees upon meeting you is your overall looks and psychologists say that humans actually make a snap judgement of another person based upon just a quick glance. That is to say; your interviewer may well have formed their very first opinion based entirely on the physical in around two or three seconds. Just what is appropriate attire varies a little depending on the nature of the company where you are interviewing, so make sure to tailor your outfit to suit your interview. As a rule of thumb, a well fitted, tailored business suit does the job nicely. Don’t forget the details; clean and polished shoes, neat hair and personal hygiene are all essential. As much as we might like to think otherwise, books often are judged by their covers, so impeccable presentation is a must.

“The physical” describes much more than just how we present ourselves and the body speaks volumes about how we conduct ourselves. Psychologists claim in fact that 30-40% of human communication is non-verbal, leaving the rest up to the body. Throughout your 20 second opportunity to impress therefore, you should also consider body language, demeanour and mannerisms. Eye contact is important, showing you to be engaged and interested in what your interviewer has to say. Looking away from the interviewer or – even worse – towards the exit, shows your eagerness to escape! If maintaining eye contact makes you nervous, try looking at the bridge of your interviewer’s nose instead to ease the nerves. Posture can also say a lot about a person and slouching or leaning back imply disinterest. Crossing your arms while talking to the interviewer can also make you appear defensive. By nodding occasionally and leaving your hands rested in your lap or on the arms of the chair, you come across as open, interested and at ease.

It might seem that not an awful lot can be done to show your demeanour within 20 seconds of meeting somebody, but that is not the case at all. A smile will help you come across positively both as a person and regarding the job and a good handshake will show your confidence. A good goal in terms of demeanour is to show an air of relaxed (but of course not too relaxed!) professionalism. Relaxation is a difficult thing to fake, so the best tactic is to practice relaxation techniques in advance of the interview and of course to BREATHE!

Another easy way to show your employer how nervous you are is to fidget. Try to avoid playing with your hair, scratching, or shifting in your seat. As well as revealing your nerves, these things will all distract your interviewer from what should be the focus – you!

If you can teach yourself to employ all these techniques for the first 20 seconds, they are also valuable things to consider for the entire interview. So all in all, the aim in the first seconds of your interview should be to start as you mean to go on. Keep calm and above all be yourself and you will set yourself off on the right foot with your employer for the rest of your time with them.

Good Luck!