SimonWilkins The Headhunter

Entering the world of Zoom

When someone mentioned Zoom, I thought of an iced -lolly from the early ’80s. Several contacts have asked me whether I shall be interviewing people via Zoom or Skype or FaceTime?

My automatic reply is always the same. I have no wish to use video conferencing platforms if I can help it. I don’t particularly need to see an image of a person in their pyjamas or with pets and kids moving around in the background, whilst trying to decipher the audio through a broken wifi signal.

I’ve met around 5000 of my contacts in person, so unless you’re new to me, I’ll know what you look like. Bedsides, phone calls are quite adequate. I’ve spent almost 20 years discussing careers on the phone before meetings and the meetings really only confirm my initial thoughts from the phone calls.

The new phrase ‘Social-Distancing’ will be around for some time to come, as we face a period of distancing to protect each other from “The Chinese virus”, as quoted by President Donald Trump. Will this mean that we shall be viewing each other on screens forever? We were heading this way before the virus attacked the planet, with people being obsessed with everyone else’s lives. Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter are popular platforms for wasting your life and not making memories of your own, instead, people are watching someone else boast about their new car, holiday, new watch, house, or model partner. There will be less of this boasting I hope, as toxic envy and jealousy are caused by these platforms, and many are responsible for relationship breakdowns, suicide and unnecessary pressures to keep up with others.

Isolation means that these platforms will thrive, but the content will be far less exotic, being confined to your own home for the time being at least.

Will video conference-style behaviour re-shape our content appetite? Will videos become less popular with the idea that you peer into someone else’s life in a Big-Brother style or Gogglebox perspective? Will it be usual to invite someone for a Zoom catch-up or simply call them via Videolink as you would a telephone?

Why hasn’t video calling really caught on? It’s been around for a long time. I remember being shown a system way back in 1993.

While we are all separated for a while, do you feel disconnected or more connected? Are you achieving more? Some home-workers are boasting that their productivity levels have increased dramatically and feel much happier working from home. Others, feel cut-off, fed-up and in a trance.

Whatever your feelings, I think that communication of any kind in any form is very important to maintaining psychological balance.

I’ve been self-employed for almost 18 years, largely working from home and travelling the UK for meetings. Knowing that I have to self-isolate in my car for an important call because the dogs are going mad, is quite normal.

Humans like interaction, more so now than ever before. I have a number of country walks nearby and you can bet your bottom dollar that if by chance someone else is on the same path in the middle of nowhere, they want to talk, instead of silence or a groan.

Maybe Zoom isn’t so bad after all. At least you’re in control of who you have to engage with!

Take care everyone, keep safe and try to remain calm. It’s a tough time for us all. I have no income or support from The Government. Two income streams lost overnight. Let’s hope for a speedy return, but be thankful for good health, which is everything.

The Power of Linkedin for Job Seekers

Quite frequently I receive calls and messages from people searching for a new job, often having been fired or left a company through redundancy.

Before I get into the benefits of Linkedin, I wanted to firstly say that at some time in your career, unless you are extremely lucky, you might find yourself without a job and it will seem very strange to say the least.

One of the most shocking findings from the conversations I’ve had is that people don’t really understand the power of Linkedin.

In many ways, it should be seen as your shop window. I mean that.

Creating the right profile, one which will be found by other users of Linkedin is so important. A good photo, words which sum up who you are and what you’ve been doing and for whom. Don’t overcook it. Keep the summary truthful and avoid industry speak.

Something which won’t necessarily occur to someone looking for a role or even having a Linkedin profile is that many hiring companies and recruitment firms will search the platform from the back-office perspective.
When Linkedin is searched by companies and recruiters, the options for search is still quite limited, so it’s really important to be as clear as possible with your intentions. A Job headline such as Seeking opportunities or Searching for my next role or Considering my options, can all be search strings used by recruiters to find the most active job seekers on the platfom.

Make sure that they know roughly where you reside too. There’s no point withholding this information because geography also plays a big part in the search criteria. Consider your nearest Linkedin Town or City and use it.
When I say, Linkedin Town or City, not every town is featured, just the major ones. For example, if you live in Crawley, West Sussex, your Linkedin town will be Redhill, the same for Horsham and surrounding areas.

Here are some tips for creating greater visibility for you when seeking out your next role;

Within Linkedin, use the search bar and enter the role of the likely hiring manager in the chain of command or go two tiers above your role if you wish. For example, if you are a Sales Manager, type in Sales Director and then use the search functions to be specific about who you are looking for.
The drop-down menus include Connections, Locations and Current Companies. The most important ones here are Location and People.

Linkedin gives you options as shown here;

Start narrowing the search down by choosing People.

Then look at the locations and add locations where you’d like to work, (select as many as you wish). If they don’t appear by typing them in, remember what I said about major Town and Cities. It’s best to look at a map for major towns within a radius.

Once you’ve selected your criteria, hit the return or enter key and soon you will have a list of people in front of you.
Now the fun begins.
This is the time consuming but valuable part of your hard work.

View the profile of the person or company one at a time. Click the profile name to view the whole profile. Then follow them from the follow option, found in a drop-down menu of the More button. It’s important to follow because they are notified by Linkedin that you’ve started following them.

Then use the back button in your browser to return to the list of the main search. Click on the next one and so forth. Keep going down the list, which usually has about 10 people listed per page.
After a while of repeating this exercise, (which is boring and repetitive), you will finally have visited quite a lot of profiles of people who might be responsible for appointing someone like you anytime soon. They will see that you’ve looked at their profile and in turn, they will look at yours. Human nature creates this intrigue.

Now, suddenly you have more or less everyone looking at your profile and if by chance they like the look of your skills, background and relevance, they might simply invite you to connect or make contact with you.

DO NOT send connection requests. The platform may suspend your account if you are rejected by the person you are approaching to be connected with. DO NOT send Connection requests. The odd request is ok, but too many will kill your account.

Instead, make sure you follow their profile, it’s much safer and no limits.

Good luck with improving your visibility, I know for sure that some people have been found this way. Not only is it fee-free for the employer, but it might also open a door, either now or later.

Keep watching this blog for future tips. Good luck, I hope this insight helps with your general understanding of Linkedin and I wish you well with your endeavours.

Make sure you’re on my radar for Housebuilding opportunities; Visit;

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.

About the author

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Simon Wilkins

Simon Wilkins

The Headhunter

07554 234 567