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Speak properly, or else

A couple of years ago I was listening to a podcast in which someone introduced themselves as a Phone Phobia Counsellor.

I listened with interest as the majority of recruitment is oral, certainly after gaining attention via messaging, often in writing.

Recently I have been listening to the radio more often, as a consequence of travelling for hours on motorways to meet candidates and clients.

I am genuinely disappointed with not only some presenters of radio shows, but also their phone-in guests. When adults can’t pronounce their T’s it becomes very irritating and unnecessary. I am forced to switch off.

One of the last irritations was a discussion on LBC radio when a political advisor couldn’t manage say ‘strategy’ or ‘party’ correctly.

Stra-a-gee and par -ee.

Who is influencing these degenerates?

Why is so difficult for people to speak without using phrases such as;

You know? Like, So, D’ya know what? Er, Can I get

Known as Discourse markers, these annoying pauses during a conversation are habitual and need to be erased from the dialogue. I believe that we are falling into a trap. Only this week, one of my clients called me and said that he had ‘reached out’ to someone. What? Reached out? Do you mean that you made contact? I explained that this American term shouldn’t creep into our conversation and if it continued, I would change my accent and speak like an American with a whole bunch of stuff included!

It seems that we are being bombarded from all angles with illiterate dunces who can’t speak or string a sentence together, with the added Americanism thrown in.

Hiring. Since when did we hire people? Maybe hiring a taxi or hiring a wedding suit, but when did hiring replace the word appointing or appointed or appoint or recruiting? We’re hiring! She’s been hired.

Next, we shall be filling up with Gas, no doubt.

This subject has been well covered in the press and on the radio a few years ago, so there’s nothing new here. What is new is that I am becoming irritated by it.

Should you find yourself sitting opposite me in a meeting, I shall abruptly suspend the meeting if I hear too many annoyances, whether you are a client or a candidate. It won’t be a friend because I don’t have any.

Directors get booted

Staff are performance managed when they’re not quite fitting in – ever hopeful of significant improvement. On the other hand, directors just get booted.

Over the last 17 years of headhunting, I have received many calls from directors who have been booted by their employers.

Often, newly booted directors will talk about the fact that they wish to find something new, but there’s no rush. This usually means that they are working their notice either at home or have arranged a ‘compromise deal’, or ‘settlement agreement’. The same scenario by different names.

A settlement agreement is essentially a sum of money to shut you up and not make a claim against the company for unfair dismissal since you are likely to be leaving the same day they decide your face no longer fits with the organisation.

When your face doesn’t fit anymore, take the money and move on. Negotiate the best deal based upon the likelihood of finding something within a reasonable timescale within your discipline. Compromise deals vary depending upon the length of service and other factors.

There is little point dressing it up as something else because everyone knows everyone and an HR reference doesn’t go far when senior bods speak to each other.

When you face this shocking event, it is essential to take some time-out to reflect, before rushing into the next job.

If the timing works and there is a job just around the corner for you, great – go for it.

Think long and hard about the culture of the business you have just left and whether you’d like to repeat the same. It’s easy to think that the speed of returning to any job is important, often a decision made in haste will be regretted later.

Your value hasn’t changed. You are still the same person you were last week or last month or last year. What has changed is the company’s view on whether you fit their organisation anymore? The business might be out-growing you.

Sometimes it’s better to be out of a business that doesn’t value your contribution and join a business that would embrace your experiences with open arms.

Try to be realistic about your situation. It’s much better to say I’ve been booted out because they had other ideas and we were not aligned in our thinking than to say you’ve resigned suddenly and working notice from your garden. It might be that you have resigned and have been forced to work from home, as part of a confidentiality issue, but honesty is the best policy when speaking to a new employer.

Companies make changes all of the time at Director level and it’s not a big deal. You won’t be the only Director on the planet who’s taken a whack of cash and considered your new options. Few directors leave a business, many fall out of favour.

When it happens to you, there’s an automatic feeling of failure. Most of the changes are personality clashes, not performance issues. Sometimes a combination of both, but that being the case, why do so many get back to work relatively quickly afterwards? 

I hope this insight has been helpful and that you remember my observations.

Things you didn’t know about some recruiters.

I am fortunate. I had a successful and rewarding career before entering into the world of recruitment. I found myself in the hands of recruiters and ‘headhunters’ (if you can call them that) soon after a swift cull of directors whilst working with Crest Nicholson. Both regions saw the departure of Managing Directors and Sales Directors in one swoop over three months. In some cases, employees had served over 30 years with the company, but their faces and mine no longer fitted-in with the new regime.

Headhunters v Recruiters

There are still many people who don’t understand the significant differences between Headhunters and Recruiters, which will become crystal clear in a few minutes of reading this. The entry barriers to recruitment are very low. In fact, so low that the industry attracts all sorts of chancers. There is a perception about recruiters which falls into the used-car sales person or estate agent profiles.

Your role as an employee is to navigate these recruiters and find someone you can trust or at least give the benefit of the doubt, because fundamentally they can cause much damage and in my case, divert your career onto a different track altogether.

Contingency recruitment

CV trading I call it. A term I stole from Mitch Sullivan. (CV spot-traders) It’s where you give your CV to a recruiter and they start trading with it. Until the recent GDPR tightening of data, CV’s were arriving in email boxes over the place, willy-nilly, often the same CV from multiple sources. When you run a department and have your inbox filling up with CV’s from multiple recruiters, it can be a time-wasting distraction.

Even if the CV has relevance, where do you begin? Which recruiter do you respond to and surely all of the recruiters involved will be chasing their fees for introduction. A complicated business for hiring Managers and Directors.

In the meantime, the poor candidate who has their CV going all over the globe has no idea of the potential problems they face.


The other big problem with recruiters is their knowledge of your industry, job role or specialism. They are reliant upon keywords for most things. They won’t have a clue about the culture of each company or indeed how it all fits together. Unless you find a credible recruiter you’re in a deep pool with lots of sharks.

Diverting your career

That’s right, diverting. A strong term but nonetheless true. 

I have seen first hand what can happen when a suitably qualified candidate is offered a job at a new company to then be hounded by another recruiter to try to divert them to their client company. It all starts with leaking information. Walls have ears, or as suggested during war times, Loose-Lips Might Sink Ships. Confidentiality is difficult when you deal with amateurs.

Fees at risk

Contingency recruiters will fight tooth and nail for their fees. They often don’t have any real relationship with the company they are hoping to place you with, it’s just a CV speculative approach and throwing mud at the wall. Be careful with comments such as; I’ll get you an interview with X,Y, Z company and then you hear nothing or some BS about they’ve been told it’s on hold or an internal appointment. What’s probably happening, is that someone like me is working in a partnership arrangement with the client and no other agencies will get a look-in, therefore you have absolutely no chance of meeting their ‘client’ who probably has never heard of them or has no desire to work with them.

Exclusive Candidates

Imagine you are a brand of rice. Why would you only go to one supermarket to sit on a shelf?

When an agency says; will you work with me exclusively, you’re actually closing the door to most companies. There is simply no reason on earth to give one agency control over your career. By all means, as is the case for many of my candidates, who say; “I’d like to find my next role via you” as I understand the industry, job roles and companies so well.

However, I always respond with; you must view the whole market, not a segment and that means looking at all roles with all companies.

Headhunting or Retained/Executive Search

Headhunting is one of life’s mysteries. Nobody really understands what happens or indeed what it all means. Retained Search or Executive Search or Headhunting are terms used to describe a particular service performed either quite badly or very successfully by someone able to find the best candidates for their client. Always, the headhunter will be retained and paid partially in advance to search and select the best people. The result of the search has more to do with the Headhunters ability to demonstrate their trust and knowledge of the sector, of their client and the reasons to consider the proposition. It is quite rare for a Headhunter to work in conjunction with anyone else or other agency as it would create an obvious conflict. Moreover, if the headhunter has any credibility, they will always meet their candidates. How effective they are after this is really up to you to fathom out.

Question the recruiter

What’s their background? How long have they been recruiting in your industry? What do they know about your specific job role or the culture of your company? Not much.

Recruiters have many bad habits;

They don’t call you back – (should be at the top of the list) Let’s explore the reasons;

  1. They have bad news and don’t really know how to convey the bad news to you.
  2. They have gone fishing with your CV and the companies they have targeted haven’t taken the bait.
  3. They are too busy sending emails and tweets.
  4. They have phone phobia.
  5. They advertise roles above your job status title to attract candidates for a job role which they are hoping to muscle-in on. i.e They see a job for Sales Manager with a company, so they advertise the same job in a different way to attract candidates. When they have the candidates, they bombard the company who they believe the opening is with, or worse still, they have a conversation with a disgruntled employee of a company who has suggested that they would consider a move and behind the scenes they start lining up people for the role. It’s called ‘back-filling’ jobs – it happens all the time in contingency recruitment.

Money is important – you aren’t

Making a living in contingency recruitment is tough. It can be very rewarding but also the most frustrating job on the planet.

What I really dislike are the disingenuous recruiters and headhunters. They see you as money, not a human-being with a career decision to make.

I have seen and heard some really slippery slime-balls in this sector. They are the types who call you up as if you’re best friends. It doesn’t take long to hear why they are calling and furthermore, once they have found out enough information, they are off again.

How to spot a recruiter who doesn’t know about the industry they serve.

A few questions will soon uncover the level of competence;

  1. When they call you about an opportunity, ask them about their client and the team or the structure of the dept. Who runs the dept, how long have they been with the company, how many in the team, reason for the vacancy, how long has the recruiter been recruiting for the company and the department?
  2. If the recruiter is still connected (unlikely) ask them whether they are the only recruiter acting for the the company?
  3. Before sending the recruiter your CV or agreeing to listen to the proposition, ask the recruiter about the job role and why they think you might be a good candidate.

I could go on, but I would imagine you will have already discovered that the recruiter either knows little about you or their client by the end of question 1.

Jobs Boards

I hate them. You probably hate them too.

This really is throwing darts with a blindfold.

Upload your CV and wait. Don’t hold your breath. You might be discovered by a recruiter or you might just have opened a can of worms.

Recruiters pay for access to Jobs Board databases. If your CV is the database, they now have a copy. If they have a role which might suit you, who knows, you might be lucky enough to be contacted.

When you apply for a role, the same thing happens. Your CV arrives straight into the recruiters inbox. Possibly hundreds of recruiters.

It’s a mine field. Good luck.

Tattoos – LOVE OR HATE

The Law Surrounding Construction Employees With Tattoos   Tattoos have seen a massive surge in popularity in recent decades.  Gone is the notion that only criminals and sailors have tattoos, and figures published a few years ago in 2015 suggested that 1 in 5 people in the UK has a tattoo, with numbers predicted to rise.  So where does that leave employers?  Do you have to employ someone who has a tattoo if you don’t want to and what can you do if you discover an existing employee has been to get a tattoo over the weekend?   The Legal Standpoint   Currently, as the law stands, the rules are pretty ambiguous on both sides.  From an employees standpoint, being discriminated against because the employer doesn’t approve of your tattoo is actually not a crime.  There is very little you can do about not being employed because you have tattoos unless you are being discriminated against on the grounds of your beliefs or religion. Many employees find this harsh but that is the current standpoint, so it is up to the individual if they choose to ink their bodies. From an employer’s point of view, you can simply discount a potential candidate because if they have a tattoo, but is that wise?   Generally Speaking   While there are some employers that simply do not tolerate tattoos the more logical standpoint is to consider what you are potentially throwing away.  Does a tattoo impact on the person’s ability to do the job?  The likely answer is no.  In many cases most people can dress in such a way that tattoos are covered and you wouldn’t even know they were there.  Having a carte-blanche anti-tattoo policy is likely to prevent you from employing some jolly talented workers.   Do you have the right to ask for reasonable presentation? Absolutely   One thing that tends to be accepted both with workers and bosses across all industries are the head and face tattoos. These are a bit of a no-go area and to be fair most people do not choose these body parts as a tattoo location.   In an office, a manager could essentially be required to have a formal dress code which would by default cover all tattoos unless they were found on the hands and feet.  On a construction site, high visibility gear may well cover most tattoos but is it so bad if your employees are showing a tattoo because it is 31 degrees and you have allowed shorts on site for example?   Is it Offensive?   The bottom line is flowers, tribal patterns, animals and even some wording is perfectly acceptable and not set to cause offence.  Clearly tattoos that can be contrived as unsuitable, of an adult nature, racist, offensive or rude are not part of an image you would want to project as a company and without doubt, you can choose not to employ people who have such tattoos.   If you discover an existing employee has such a tattoo and is now wanting to have it uncovered in the workplace you would also have grounds for recourse.  Of course, some people have a particular dislike of tattoos and if you find them generally unprofessional, you could choose not to hire someone.  Many existing employees may well have tattoos on areas of the body that are never exposed in work and therefore the employer will never even know they are present, in which case it can be further evidenced that there is no impact on their work.   What Do Others Do?   Because all employers can set their own rules when it comes to staff tattoos the rules do vary, but organisations like the Fire Service and Police do permit their employees to have tattoos, provided they are tasteful, not offensive and again, do not adorn the face or head.   Facial tattoos seem to be associated with an intimidating persona which apparently is not an image such organisations want the public to see as they are there to assist and be trusted by the public.   Police officers have been seen on the beat in summer with tattoos visible under short sleeved shirts and again this undoubtedly does not impact on their ability to work.   Although tattoos are associated with the Navy, the Army also adopted a similar policy.  Recruits are advised to show pictures of tattoos when signing up and again face or head tattoos are prohibited. With these precedents in mind, it is fair to say that on a construction site there would be little cause for concern if the above criteria are met and to be fair, health and safety rules surrounding clothing may well mean most tattoos are covered.  In offices again, it would be reasonable to ask staff to dress in such a way as to hide their tattoos, but if the office does not have a public facing function other than by phone or email, would there be a need to insist on this?   The Bottom Line   The bottom line is that employees do have a responsibility to ensure they are suitably presented for work and employers should logically be careful not to discriminate by not hiring staff solely on the basis they have body art or tattoos, when they may be the most suitable and qualified candidate for the job.   Common sense would be the best guide and policies can be put in place that ensures all employees understand the company reasoning.  If an employee comes into the office one morning with a face tattoo – this would be a clear breach in policy and following protocol grounds for dismissal.   If you have a particular dislike or feel hand tattoos are also promoting a reduced image, then you can choose to exclude potential candidates on these grounds.   However, most people simply have tattoos with no desire to cause offence or fuss and as such, there is no reason for construction employers to not respect this.  In return, employees should accept reasonable requests to keep tattoos covered when needed.

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Simon Wilkins

Simon Wilkins

The Headhunter

07554 234 567