Are you feeding the Mogwai?

I was in a meeting on Friday with a potential client who was quite open at her dislike of agencies.  When I say dislike, what I actually mean is she hates them. 

And, as a recruiter, I get it.

I hear it a lot. 

“Recruiters are money-grabbing sharks!” 

“You lot are parasites!” 

“You don’t give a damn- you just throw enough sh*t at the wall and see what sticks!”

And it is often hard to argue against it. 

Obviously, I like to think our business is different and I think our clients and candidates alike would attest to that, but I don’t want to turn this into a “look at how different we are” blog.

What I want to ask is…

Is it your fault?  Are you feeding the Mogwai?

If you are unaware, a Mogwai is the cute pet from the film “Gremlins”.  The problem with a mogwai is that when it is exposed to bright light, water or fed after midnight, it then spawns other creatures who transform into small, destructive, evil monsters called Gremlins.

There are a multitude of complaints against agency recruiters, but the most common ones include:

“They all bombard me with so many calls!”

“They send me thousands of unsolicited e-mails with CVs attached, telling me how “fantastic” their candidates are!”

The question that often doesn’t get asked is,

“Why do they do that”?

There are two common approaches in recruitment- Transactional recruitment and Relationship recruitment (I’ll cover more about what this means in another blog). 

Essentially, transactional recruitment is low engagement, low skill and often without commitment to the wider aims of the client.  Relationship recruitment focusses on the desired outcomes of the business, looking at matching the soft skills as well as the JD requirements and is aimed at a long-standing mutually beneficial supplier-customer relationship.

Transactional recruitment follows a very simple strategy- contact enough people (through cold calls, mailshots, meetings etc), and you will get the desired outcome.  You will often hear talk of a sales funnel, or even a sausage machine.  They look at standard market or company ratios (Calls to jobs in, CVs sent to interviews, interviews to placements etc), and track that back to calculate their basic input KPIs.  Unfortunately, as they don’t aim to improve those ratios through upskilling their consultants, or improving market or client knowledge, this often ends up with massive “input targets” (I have heard of 200 calls/week, 10 meetings /week amongst others).  With those kind of targets in mind, is there any thought as to who or why they call people?  Have a think about the last few calls you received from recruiters?  How useful to YOU were they? 

So why is this your fault?

Well, unfortunately their stats stack up.  If they meet those KPIs, they are likely to catch someone at the right time, and “for ease” will reply to the unsolicited email,  or speak to them about a requirement.  And then they’ve got you and you end up in that painful, difficult process, sometimes without a positive outcome.  You are justifying their approach and are therefore perpetuating this outdated, predatory approach to a key function in your business.

So, my advice is….before you feed the mogwai, think….”Is it after midnight?  Do I want a gremlin running around my organization?”

If the answer is no, you may want to think twice about responding. 


Owning Your Future reflections

I’ve been really pleased to be asked to speak at a number of the CIH’s “Owning Your Future” events across the country over the past few months where I was asked to discuss “How to stand out in a crowded recruitment market”.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that it is a much more competitive market out there. Where recruiters would have had on average 10-12 applicants, they are now getting 35 plus and often into the triple figures territory, so trying to be noticed by the recruiting line manager has gone from this:

to this…

However, each session had some great engagement and obviously everyone is having similar challenges so I thought it worth summarising some of the key themes here.

  1. Prepare!– Prepare your answers. Prepare your questions. And also prepare for REJECTION. Apparently, the average job seeker now has to go through 24 “no’s” before they get to the “yes” according to research by Career Coach and author Orville Pierson. It may sound like a negative mindset but once you realise it could be a long journey, you are better positioned to accept those rejections, and learn from each experience. Also, each rejection is one step closer to the yes!
  2. Develop your personal brand– It sounds a bit too “corporate spiel” for me, but it is important in such an insular market like Housing. What I’m trying to say is- be visible, be genuine, be open and be informative. I gave the example of SoChathour, a twitter conversation that happens every week from 8pm-9pm, which gives people in the Shared Ownership field a chance to ask questions, find solutions to problems and share Best Practice. If I was looking for someone in that field, it would be one of the first places I would look to see who is informed, who is engaged (and who is passionate enough about their field that they will commit some of their evening to it). Equally, if a recruiting line manager sees a CV with a name they recognise, they will automatically look at it in more depth than the others.
  3. Develop your network– This follows on from developing your personal brand, but helps that brand spread further and wider. But a network isn’t just how many follow you on Linkedin or Twitter- your network is really just those people with whom you engage. A network is like a plant- it needs some regular attention, perhaps a little feeding (with information, content etc) and sometimes maybe even a little pruning. The more value you bring to your network, the more your network will look after you and that could be key in standing out from the crowd.
  4. Avoid following the textbook– We all have information at our fingertips nowadays. The downside to this is that it creates a very “generic” approach to many things. When I asked how people should prepare for an interview- everyone mentioned the same things (look at the Person Spec and JD and prepare examples of your experience to demonstrate your skills in that area, check the company website and values etc). That’s great and is the right answer….to a point. If everyone is doing that (which it appears many people are), you are no longer standing out. Once it is the “textbook answer”, it almost becomes obsolete once again- the bar has been re-set and so you need to do more, or do something different. This is where your network can come in to play. You may know someone who has worked in that organisation, or worked with the recruiting line manager and they can give you insight into them as a person- how do they interview, what do they like to hear in an interview etc. Or you can see what conversations they are engaging with on their Twitter or Linkedin. You may stumble across some common ground which will open up a whole new conversation and really get their attention. The same can go for CVs- there is a standard format for CVs and that is fine, but don’t be wedded to that if its not going to get you an interview. Make sure the relevant information is the first thing they see (I would suggest the 2nd quarter of the page), and then build everything else around that (I have blogged about this before-here and here).
  5. Back yourself– As a society, we are really bad at this. Ambition is almost a dirty word. We focus too much on what we can’t do, rather than what we can. When approaching new roles, too many people forget that they have the ability to learn (and this is particularly prominent in women who apply for 20% less roles than men according to research by Linkedin). This is where a mentor/coach or support network comes in really handy as they can challenge your stance and let you see the full picture.

The most pleasing thing for me was seeing a consistently high level of commitment to the sector and wanting to do the right thing by the customer and that commitment is priceless. Housing is in good hands- the talent is there to close the burgeoning skills gap in the sector- we just need to give it the best chances to reveal itself.

When does “Added Value” add No Value?

We go to Cornwall most years as my dad is from that way and it is a beautiful part of the country.  Without fail, when we passed a particular village, my dad would pipe up with his favorite joke,

“When is a bridge, not a bridge?”

“I don’t know dad, when is a bridge not a bridge?” I would reply

“When it’s Notter Bridge”

Cue tumbleweed.

notter bridge

Needless to say, I put my kids through the same torture every time we pass that way now.

I have applied the same thinking to a new joke- not sure how funny my son or daughter will find it (not that that has ever stopped me!!)

“Hey Finn, When does Added Value add no Value?”

“What’s Added Value daddy?”

“When it is “Added Value!!”

value add

Cue tumbleweed and a confused look.

But, what it lacks in comedy genius, it makes up for in accuracy.

Added value seems to have lost its meaning.  Everything is “Added Value”.  Its almost as though the actual service has been stripped away and split into various stages to makes up “value add”.  In many cases, you can replace “added value” with “opportunity to upsell”.

Would you like the new Columbian blend sir?

Would you like the anti-stain covering on your new sofa sir?

Would you like Payment Protection Insurance on that loan sir?

And recruitment has caught on to this, but often at the detriment of the overall service.  I have seen too many processes over-complicated by adding additional assessments, tests or presentations which don’t actually aid the process.  If anything, they create a clunky, confusing process which often leads to losing some talented applicants.

We have worked on a few pitches for work recently and lost out to a pitch which included a more convoluted process.  The process they chose goes against everything they actually wanted- a slick, pacey process and an opportunity to see the person behind the interview questions.  In essence they’ve been up-sold, but not in a way that will benefit the process- at best it will just be more expensive but add no REAL value.


Well, there are two main reasons and the first is RISK….or PERCEIVED RISK.

Senior executives are under intense scrutiny to make the right decisions and so having numerous layers of “checks, assessments and tests” can give them an audit trail as to why they made a particular decision.

However, what isn’t under scrutiny is whether that is the RIGHT process.

In these scenarios, they have got the best person who “survived” that process- it doesn’t monitor those people that were put off by the process, who dropped out due to the poor experience or those who were ideal but were assessed in the wrong criteria.

For example, if you are assessing a Chief Executive against their ability to go out and chase rent arrears (I promise you, this has happened!), then I argue you won’t get the best person to lead your business!

So next time you are looking to recruit your next Director of Operations or Chief Executive- don’t be blinded by all the flashing lights-ask yourself the following questions:

What will the future “Insert Job title here” be doing?

What skills will they need to possess in order to do that?

How can we assess for those skills?

Will this reflect our organisation appropriately and attract the right people?

Sometimes simple is beautiful (as I keep telling my wife)!

Why don’t you have a career strategy?

Image result for career strategy

My last blog discussed the many queries I’ve had from Housing executives about how to make their CV shine to stand out from the ever increasing competition.  It seemed to resonate with a few people, so I thought I’d look at any other helpful queries I’ve had recently by way of a follow up- think of me as your Agony Uncle….and lets face it, recruitment can be agony at times!!

One other recent query I had from another contact was how does he take the next step in his career as he feels he may have gone down a bit of a cul de sac?

This contact, lets call him Sven (not his real name) had applied to a Chief Executive role I was recruiting to and produced a strong CV.  He has had a very strong career progression, predominantly in the Marketing & Communications field rising up to Director level within a sizeable Housing Group.  The exposure across the whole business had given him a great understanding of most aspects of the business, but unfortunately he had scratched the surface on many of them, but didn’t have the same depth of understanding in many of the key areas as many other applicants.

Another applicant for the same role, lets call this candidate Englebert (I’m not great at choosing common names, am I?), demonstrated what Sven perhaps should have done with hindsight.

Englebert is an intelligent and highly ambitious guy and has always known he wanted to become a Chief Executive of a Housing Association, and so every move he has made has been with that in mind.  He made a pretty rapid rise to Head of Housing level.  Once had had achieved what he wanted to in that role, he realised he needed to manage a larger staff team, so took what could have looked like a sideways step to another Head of Service role.  The difference was that he was managing over a hundred staff rather than 20 odd.  Once he had improved services there and addressed all the issues, he looked for a role which would give him some responsibility for Repairs and Asset Management (and even a bit of regen to boot).  Throughout this time, he has also sat on 3 Boards, giving him vital exposure to governance and risk issues.  The final piece of the jigsaw was moving into the Housing Association sector and he secured a role with a small HA in a larger group (double whammy!) where he then made a name for himself.  The next move could very really be a Chief Executive or MD role and very deservedly so.

So my question is- why aren’t most people more strategic in their career paths?

Now before you start, I know many of you have Personal Development Plans at work, but I bet that they are just focussed on you moving up to the next role in your department!  And that’s the problem!

What about the skills and knowledge you will need in 5-10 years time- will the move up on the next rung in your current department help you get there or are you heading down another cul de sac?

If you want to climb the greasy pole within the Housing industry, consider these following points:

  1. Develop a career STRATEGY– and ideally do it as soon as possible. Firstly, think about where you want to be and think about what knowledge and abilities you would need to have in that role and track that back to where you are today.  I bet you have a business plan with some milestones along the way- why don’t you do it for yourself?  Mentors and career coaches are useful to help you with this and there are plenty of videos on youtube which can get your juices flowing.
  2. Consider the direction of the industry– Housing is re-inventing itself and adapting to new conditions on a regular basis, so what is a sensible career option today, may not be in 2 years time (think of the collapse of the building trade a good few years back or the reduction of specialist teams like employability or Tenant Participation more recently). Look at what is happening now and what the potential repurcussions may be in the future.  For example- the fall of outsourced contractors like Carillion and Connaughts hints at a sizeable shift in direction for that part of the industry- what will it look like in 5 years time and what skills will be required?
  3. Be open to opportunities– remember that a career strategy, in the same way that a business plan does, can and should flex. You never know where something may lead and getting a wider portfolio of skills and knowledge can only be useful the further you go.  For many years now SMTs have been shrinking, which means Directors are now responsible for more than one discipline, so you should be considering that whilst you progress from manager through to head of Service Level.
  4. Be visible– Develop a reputation in the market for being someone who is committed to what they do- engage in or start topics that are important to you on social media channels, attend the many Housing events and participate, and develop your networks outside of your organisation. We work in a world where you are never really away from work completely and so someone who’s “personal brand” shows skills and knowledge in a particular area, twinned with a commitment and belief in the virtues of Social Housing will resonate way beyond your own network and may open doors who never knew were there.
  5. Commit to the above– we all get busy with the day to day and plans fall by the wayside. We can often set a plan and then when we next review it we realise 5 years has gone by and nothing has changed.  Make time to review and adapt your plan at least every 6 months to make sure you are always moving forward and reacting to the external environment along the way.


Now don’t worry.  If you don’t have a plan, it isn’t too late!  If you have read this far, your homework is to have a look at where you are at in your career, have a think about if you want to go further, and if you do, how many stages do you think are between you now and then and start to consider how you COULD get there.

Do you need to look outside of your current organisation or can you start to look at secondment opportunities in your current organisation?

I personally think that Housing organisations should develop a Talent Pool where secondments in other organisations could be brokered and then PDPs could actually be just that- Personal Development Plans, not just Staff Promotion Criteria!

The industry is connected enough and competition between organisations is low enough that it could just work- but that is for another blog!



3 ways to make your Executive CV shine!


So, if my inbox over the past few weeks is anything to go by, we must be in a New year and people are getting their usual January Job itches.

Barry, would you mind having a look at the attached CV, I think it may time for my next challenge

Barry, what is the executive market looking like- much out there for someone like me?”

I’m not a celebrity, but please get me out of here!” (genuine opening to an e-mail last week-you know you you are).  Needless to say, before I start looking for something for them, I will make them eat a witchety grub and crawl around in underground dungeons full of rats and spiders!

But the biggest request over the past few weeks has been from my executive clients and candidates (Director, Exec Director or CEO) to check over their CVs, ready for a year of “New year, New Job” (god I hate that strap-line that all recruiters use at this time of year- it makes me shudder!), so I thought I’d write a few blogs covering some of the main things to consider.

I suppose the first question is whether the rules for writing an executive CV or a CV for an operational officer differ, and the answer is both yes and no.

The principles of writing a CV for any level of professional are the same.  I wrote a series on how to create a great CV last year and can be found here.  However, there are some other considerations or approaches you can use as an executive to help you to stand out of the crowd, because you’ll need to- the market is very “applicant heavy” and so no matter how good you are, you need to give your CV and job applications due attention.

To give you an idea of the current market, I recruited a permanent Chief Executive at the end of last year and even though it was December (apparently no-one looks for jobs in December!?!?), and even though the salary wasn’t as high as many others in the market, we received interest from over 100 applicants, full applications from 76 people and of those, 37 were worth consideration.  10 years ago, you would probably get 10 applications and 5 would have merited going through the process.

Barry’s top 3 Tips to make your Executive CV shine…

  1. Drop the personal profile

Instead of a standard Personal Profile description, consider using that space as a Career Objective or Mission Statement.  If you operate at Director Level or above, you won’t be brought in to keep a seat warm or carry out functions within a process.  If someone asks me to find them a Director of Housing for example, they are talking about where the business is, and where it is going, and then they type of experience and personality they need to take them there.  Therefore, it makes sense that you should play to that.  Pitch yourself as the person with the relevant experience and personality/values to deliver their objectives.  It is a subtle difference but make it a statement of intent rather than a generic description of capabilities.

    2.  Develop your Key Achievements

In my other blog regarding standard CV writing, I talk about the importance of including 3-5 Key Achievements, and this is still the case, but you may want to develop them a bit further.  For example, a rents officer may write:

“Reduced arrears by 35% within 3 months”- that is great, it shows the impact of that person, and there is likely a few processes behind this that has helped that person to achieve that.

An Executive level person often needs to summarise complex issues in a soundbite and there can be multiple ways of arriving at the result.  I suggest using the CAR framework (Challenge Action Result) to help keep it concise.

  1. Think of your Personal Brand

This is critical in not only aligning your CV appropriately, but this awareness will save you time in applying for the right roles that align with your skills.  When I meet with Directors or Chief Executives to discuss their next move, I’ll often ask them why they are moving on, what they are looking for.  I am not exaggerating when I say I think at least 95% will respond with something to the affect of, “looking for a challenge/need a new challenge”.  We then have to peel that back to discover what represents that challenge and what floats their boat.  This self-awareness is key and most people at this level know what their strengths and weaknesses are, so make sure this is reflected through out your CV (and also on your other social networks, especially Linkedin).

Lets face it, how many CVs have you read that give you no answers as to who the person is and what they are about? If you start to think of the above, it should hopefully start to re-align your CV from a standard, function and skill CV, to a more motivational, visionary document which will excite, rather than bore the reader (i.e. your future employer!)

A CV is a sales document, not an enyclopedia!

The Final 5- 5 ways to make the most of your GREAT new CV!

Image result for releasing pigeons

Before I begin, let’s just re-cap what we have covered so far (if you have missed any, click on the relevant hyperlink below):

Getting in the right mindset to create a great CV

What to avoid putting on your CV

How to ensure your CV stands out from the rest

How to tailor your CV for a specific requirement.

Many people would think they have it cracked now- the CV is done, the jobs should come rolling in now, shouldn’t they???


What good is the CV going to do for you sat on your desktop until the right role comes up in 6 months time (when your CV is probably out of date and needs fine tuning again anyway!)??  You can obviously put it on a Job Board and wait for something to come in, but here are 5 other things that will help your CV fly!!:

  1. Align it with your online presence– Make sure your CV and your Linkedin profiles are aligned. Not only that the information in both is accurate (I have seen some profiles with different companies, let alone different dates to their CVs, which is often a big question mark on an applicant), but that they both echo the same “brand”.  Your online profile is becoming more and more important, so ensure that the person you claim to be on your CV is echoed as much as possible online.  If you say that you are driven, give 100% to your employer and are a workaholic, then perhaps avoid repeatedly commenting on twitter that you are bored at work and can’t wait until the weekend (believe me, I have seen this!).
  2. Promote yourself– now that you have your online presence aligned, in particular Linkedin, then start to make proactive approaches to people who you’d like to work for, or within organisations where you would like to work. You don’t have to be pushy, but you can ask for their advice on how to get in to the organisation or develop some useful contacts.  Also, start to be visible on Linkedin- comment on posts, write some yourself.  You’ll be surprised how many people will approach you and ask to see your CV.  Away from the virtual world, you could send your CV in hardcopy with a handwritten envelope to the relevant person within a company you’d love to work at- trust me it works wonders.  Apparently, 60-70% of unsolicited emails go unopened, but a handwritten letter (as it is so uncommon nowadays in the business world) has a vastly increased chance of being opened, so its surely worth a try, isn’t it?
  3. Tailor your application– this is just an extension of the advice about your CV, but for some reason, people still get wrong. If you have spent time tailoring your CV, then don’t let yourself down by using a “cut and paste” supporting statement/e-mail.  I often get applications from people who have forgotten to change the Job title that they are applying for, which for me, is another quick rejection.  Talk as much about why you want to work for them, as you do about you and your suitability.  MATCH yourself to them, don’t just tell them how great you are.  It is the difference between a consultative salesperson and one of those charity people who try and catch your eye and talk at you in the street.
  4. Follow up– If you have applied for a role, and taken the time to tailor your CV and application, then don’t fall at the last hurdle! Call to confirm receipt and see when you can expect feedback.  This makes some people uncomfortable, but genuinely, there is no downside if you have the guts to do it.  Firstly, it is giving you an additional window of opportunity with the employer that many others haven’t taken.  It will make your name memorable and stick out when they come across it.  If they print the CVs off into a physical pile- when you call and they check, your CV will automatically go to the top of the pile when they put it back which can also improve your chances.
  5. Register with an appropriate agency– If the above seems like too much hard work, then let someone like me do that bit for you. A good CV helps a recruiter sell you to their clients and also gives them more buy in to you as a viable candidate.  If you have taken time to pull together a decent CV, then you are serious about your job search, and it is those people that people like us, want to work with.  But please make sure you choose a reputable one- you don’t want them to undo all the good work you have done to this point.

I hope the above, and the previous blogs have been of help- but if you want to discuss any of topics I have covered or want some individual guidance or recruitment advice, then feel free to contact me on

5 ways to tailor your CV to a particular role


As mentioned in my previous blog, tailoring your CV is the single most important thing you can do when applying for a new role.  When employers have a pile of CVs to go through, and minimal time to do it in, they will scan the CVs for, on average, 6 seconds and if they don’t see the relevant information, you go in to “No” pile, and no-one wants to be there.

I would say about 80-90% of people won’t tailor their CVs for specific roles, so if you make sure you are in the minority, you are significantly improving your chances of being invited in for an interview.  Before I start, I want to make one thing clear- “tailoring” your CV is not carte blanche to “lie” on your CV.  By tailoring, we mean highlighting your relevant experience/attributes to their requirements and making it as easy as possible to see this.

So, if you have been following this series so far, you can probably guess how many pointers I am going to give you (if not, there is a really big hint in the title to this blog!), and this will be accompanied by another very cleverly constructed and memorable acronym- RAMSA!

  1. Review– review the Job description and Person Specification, and then go through your CV and highlight all the elements on the JD/PS that is covered on your CV. Hopefully, you end up with a reasonable amount of colour on both documents.  If not, then you may want to consider if this is going to be the right role for you to put your efforts in to.  Then look at what you haven’t highlighted and establish if that is because you haven’t got that experience, or if it is just not on your CV.  If it is the latter, get it on there quick smart!
  2. Advert– for me, the advert is one of the most important insights in to what the recruiting manager is looking for. A JD and PS is often dusted off from a previous recruitment process and seldom altered/adapted.  Equally, it covers everything you could ever expect to do in the role, and so doesn’t give you an idea of the emphasis of the role requirements.  The advert, however, will be written with this particular role in mind, will often be written by the recruiting manager, or drafted based on the specific requirements they have.  It will give you hints as to what they want to see on a CV and what the main emphasis for the role is.  So, take this and use it to formulate your personal profile box- use their language, talk about how you meet those criteria and what appeals to you about helping them to achieve their goals.
  3. Manipulate– You will probably have a master CV with a number of bullet points underneath each role. The reader of this CV will often make the automatic assumption that the top bullet point is the most important aspect of your role and will progress in decreasing importance.  Therefore, if a key part of the new role is halfway down your list, move it to the top.  Not only does this make the main points easier to find (you have 6 seconds to get their attention remember), but it plays a little mind trick on the reader, thus improving your chances of being shortlisted.
  4. Separate– I talked in the last blog about ensuring your CV is output/achievement focussed. In order to make these as easy as possible to find, there are a couple of ways of separating these out.  You can either separate each role into small sub-headings for responsibilities and achievements, or, I prefer to have a small section before your employment history which summarises 3-5 relevant achievements.  The reason I prefer this is that it means they will be on the first page (some employers will never get to the 2nd page of a CV), it is easy to find, and it clearly reinforces your suitability for the role with minimal effort on the readers part.
  5. Adapt– this is perhaps my most contentious point, but I think merits inclusion (and there is a halfway house option if you don’t like it). We have talked at length about using their language, making your CV relevant to them.  Over the years, Housing has become more and more creative and no more obviously than when it comes to job titles.  Now that is fine internally, but it can often be confusing to other organisations with another language.  Let’s take the simple role of a Housing Officer- just in the Midlands alone that could be called a Tenancy Officer, Neighbourhood Officer, Housing Patch Manager, Housing Advisor, Neighbourhood Champion, Neighbourhood Coach to name a few.  The issue comes when you are applying for a role with another organisation.  Say you are a Neighbourhood Champion for example, and applying for a Generic Housing Officer role.  The tasks within both are very similar, but you open yourself to being overlooked, if the recruiting manager makes an assumption (in those 6 seconds) as to what a Neighbourhood Champion would do.  So you can run the risk, or you can make it relevant and change it to their language.  It isn’t lying, it is helping the reader of the CV to understand in their language what you do.  In reality, in that example, I would absolutely do that, however, if it was the other way round (i.e. a Generic Housing Officer applying for a Neighbourhood Champion role), I probably wouldn’t as that title is quite unique.  And this is the halfway house option.  In that case (or if you were uncomfortable doing the first option at all), I would put Generic Housing Officer (equivalent of your Neighbourhood Champion role), or something to that effect.  It not only avoids any misunderstanding, but again confirms you have spent time on this specific application, which shows your commitment to the position.

So there you go- I imagine I might get some feedback on those, but I’d welcome any discussion!  The final blog will give you some useful tips of what to do with your CV now it is first rate!

5 Top Tips to make your CV stand out from the crowd

My blog from yesterday looked at what NOT to do on your CV, so let’s now look at what you SHOULD do that will help you stand out from the crowd.  For many roles in Housing at the moment, you can expect upwards of 40-50 applications, so it is absolutely critical that you do everything you can to ensure you make the shortlist for interview.

perfect CV

According to Google, you have on average 6 seconds to get an employers’ attention (I had also heard a stat which was closer to 4), so it is vital that you give yourself the best chance of being shortlisted.

How do we do that, Barry?

I’m glad you asked.  The simple answer is to follow these 5 steps and you won’t go far wrong.  For the acronym lovers amongst you, this one is slightly more memorable than the previous blog- KROPP (is that Danish for “to trip over”?)

  1. KISS- Keep It Simple Stupid– okay, you’re not stupid- in fact, you are obviously very clever as you are reading this! If you have only 6 seconds to get the employers attention, it is absolutely vital that your CV is easy to read, easy to find the relevant information and easy on the eye.  This is where your format and font is important, but also that you keep the information simple and concise.  You don’t need to go into minute detail- you just need to demonstrate your experience in particular areas and peak the employers interest- if you leave them asking some questions, then you are more likely to be invited in to interview so they can ask them.
  2. Relevance– Some people are worried about changing their CV, but they really shouldn’t.  Remember- the CV’s sole purpose is to convince the employer that you are worth interviewing- it is NOT a story of your life.  That is initially where people get it wrong.  The most important word here is RELEVANCE.  Every piece of information on your CV should be relevant to the reader- otherwise it is pointless.  Tailor your CV in line with the JD/Job advert and align your experience with what they need.  My advice is to have a master CV which can be as long as you want (but that never gets sent out), and then select the relevant information from each role and send that out to the role.  It takes a little more time, but it will not be as fruitless as sending out the same generic CV to every job.  We’ll go into more detail on this in the next blog, as this is the MOST important aspect of CV writing.
  3. Output focus– This is the area that many people get wrong. They will describe their job tasks rather than their impact on the business.  By illustrating your achievements/outputs, you are clearly demonstrating what benefits the employer will get if they take you on.  See the differences in the example below:
    1. Responsible for Rent Arrears Management
    2. Reduced arrears by 3.4% year on year through implementing a pro-active approach from officers and establishing a clear business process for the team, backed by KPI’s.

Not only does the latter show the impact that you have had, but also clearly demonstrates that you know how you achieved it.  Equally, the figures will draw the eye in, and so immediately stands out when initially scanning the CV.

  1. Positioning– As mentioned above, you have 6 seconds to get their attention, so you want to make sure the employer can find the relevant, concise and output focussed information as easy as possible. A little trick I like, is to ensure that the really key information is in the 2nd quarter of the first page.  This is where many people start to read a CV, so you are getting off to a flying start.  They assume that the personal details etc are in that top quarter and that doesn’t matter to start with.  If the first few bits of information they read match their requirements, you will seldom fail to make the shortlist.
  2. Personalise the Profile– If you align your personal profile with what they are asking for in the advert, you will:
    1. Demonstrate your suitability for the role
    2. Demonstrate that you have given your application due care and attention.

Use the same language that they use, and clarify why you demonstrate those attributes.  Also, it is often a good idea to align yourself to the organisation and its values for the same reason.  Please, please, please don’t use the old and tired phrases that mean nothing like, “I work well in a team or on my own initiative”!  I see it soooooo often it is starting to sap my will to live!

Tomorrow, I’m going to go into some more detail on how best to tailor your CV so I’ll see you back here tomorrow!



5 things to absolutely, definitely leave off your CV

I hope you enjoyed yesterdays blog- if you haven’t seen it yet, you can find it here.

I’m going to be honest- the title to this blog is a bit misleading, but I wanted to grab your attention and get you to want to read on (much like you want to with your CV).  The truth about CVs is that they are very subjective.  What I like or want to see on a CV, someone else won’t like or want to see.  It’s a really personal thing, and you can’t play to everyone.  However, you can play to the majority by following some of the advice I’m going to be providing over this series or ignore it at your peril!


Before I start, I think it is important to add this caveat.

My advice is based on recruiting to the Social Housing market over the past 15 years, and so the advice is particularly relevant to that market.  It is based on what has worked with my clients, from feedback from clients and candidates and knowing the drivers within that industry.  That’s not to say it won’t work elsewhere-it will in the main, but there are always exceptions (e.g. a graphic designer CV will be much better suited to demonstrate their design skills with graphics etc, but that isn’t as necessary for a Housing Officer).

With that covered, lets crack on with our list of what to leave off your CV but seem intent on including:

  1. Personal Details– Before I lose you immediately, I don’t mean name and contact details etc, I mean “personal”, personal details. Within this I include:
    1. NI number
    2. Date of Birth/age
    3. Marital status or number of children
    4. Race/ethnicity
    5. Health statement
    6. Political or religious affiliation
    7. Hobbies (unless relevant to the role)

None of this is relevant to your employer at this stage, and can lead to possible discrimination in the recruitment process (or worse still, fraudulent use of your personal information if found on a Job Board).

  1. Photograph– I know it is common place in Europe, but even pre-Brexit, it is not required on our CVs. Firstly, it doesn’t help someone decide if you are suitable for a particular role, and it can again lead to unjust discrimination.  (Also, it puts me at a disadvantage, as I am not very photogenic- see below)IMG_2040                                                 Who would employ this!!?!?
  2. References– we see this a lot, but there are a few issues with this. Firstly, it often takes up valuable space, that would be better served “selling you” to the employer.  Secondly, if you put your current employer on there (and they don’t know you are looking), the employer may take it as an open invite to contact them for a quick assessment of your abilities….and get you in to hot water!  And a third reason is that the unscrupulous recruitment agencies will use it as a way of adding new contacts to their database (and all of a sudden your friendly referee is getting hounded by agencies!)
  3. Reason for leaving– It is very difficult to convey a reason for leaving concisely, and is also open to mis-interpretation. This is much better being kept to a conversation in the interview.
  4. Jokes/humorous comments– (e.g. I have been a longsuffering Aston Villa supporter/I play golf (badly) etc- I love a joke as much as the next man (perhaps more), and I have laughed at some comments on CVs that were very funny, but you are playing to a very niche market there. Also, you are relying on the person reading it, to understand the tone/meaning.  A CV is a professional document and should be presented as one- save the jokes for the interview!

There are others that I could include, but these are the most common ones that I see, but I’d welcome your feedback as I’m sure some of the above may be contentious.

A demain!




5 useful tips to help you START writing your CV


I have seen a marked increase in requests from my clients and candidates recently to either look over their existing CV, or help them pull one together, and it got me thinking that I haven’t written any blogs on the subject yet.  So, I want to put that right, and to make up for this oversight, I am going to publish a series of 5 blogs to be published one per day throughout this week.  Does that make it up to you?  I thought so- you’re an understanding bunch.

So where to start?


One of the most difficult parts of writing a CV is actually getting started.  You sit in front of your PC/Laptop/Tablet and stare at a blank page thinking of everything and nothing at the same time.  All the advice out there seems to miss out this key stage!

What do you actually do?

How do you summarise your entire career on a piece of paper?

How can you explain how busy and productive you are everyday in a bullet point?

What information should you include?

What should you miss off?

I’ll come on to some of the above points throughout the series including the actual content, but here are my 5 “Useful Tips” to help you get your CV on to paper/screen.  If you like acronyms, then this one easy to remember (and pronounce), I’m sure you’ll agree- RBFSR!

  1. Research– You need to get in the right mindset. Often, you’ll mainly remember what you have been doing over the last 3-6 months or possibly year, but what about the rest of it?  It could all be relevant, so do your research on yourself. Look over old appraisals, JDs, presentations you have done to remind you of what you have done, how you are perceived, what your strengths (and weaknesses) are, what you have achieved etc.
  2. Braindump– Get everything down, don’t worry about anything else yet, just get it down. I would suggest breaking it up into sections- Personal Details, Key Skills, Achievements, Job tasks, Other, but feel free to choose your own.  This will then give you your “working document” to mine when you pull the CV together.
  3. Format– this is a really important thing to get right, and therefore merits serious consideration. Templates are useful, and I’m not telling you not to use them, but as a recruiter who sees tens of CVs every day, I can spot them a mile off now.  Why is that a bad thing?  In a world where there are more people vying for the same job, you need to stand out, and if your CV looks similar to another 5 CVs in the pile, are you likely to stand out?  If you are creating your own format, make sure you consider how easy it is to read.  Make sure there is enough white space to balance out the words- make it easy to find the relevant information, rather than cramming loads of information in.  Also, make sure you are consistent in the format- whatever you choose to do, make sure it is the same throughout.
  4. “Sell” the idea of you– The information you “braindumped” in part 2 of the RBFSR process (I should get it trademarked- it’s catchy isn’t it?) now comes in to play. You need to think about how to position that work in a way to “sell” you as a viable future employee when inputting it in to your chosen format (N.B. you may change the emphasis for various roles).  We’ll touch more on this later in the series.
  5. Review– Please, please, please read over what you have put together. Check for typo’s, check for mistakes, check for inconsistencies in the format.  Look at it as though you were recruiting for your own dream role, and consider whether you would interview you.  Also, get independent opinions on it (from friends, family, recruiters etc) and take a balanced view on the feedback.

So you should hopefully have the semblance of a functional CV, or at least the raw materials for one, but don’t rush off too quickly!  I have another 4 blogs to follow which will cover what to avoid putting on your CV, how to make your CV stand out, how to tailor your CV for roles, and getting your CV to the right people.  When you are fully armed with the above advice, I can release you to put it in to practice!

See you tomorrow!