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.


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I manage a small Housing recruitment business (www.greenacre-recruitment) covering the Midlands and South West Regions. Outside of that, I'm a dad of 2, a keen rugby supporter (knees don't allow me to play anymore) and cyclist (the knees let me do that!)

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