Okay. So hi, everybody. Thanks a lot for coming along today. My name is Katie. As I said, I’m the stakeholder engagement manager for Prosper and I’d like to introduce our panel. We’ve got Katie Caine from Ashfield Health, Craig Robinson from VRS Recruitment and Steph Donaldson from National Museums Liverpool today. So if I could invite each of you to just give a little introduction to yourselves and to your role in the recruitment process before we move into a bit more of a detailed discussion. Craig, could I ask you first please?
Yes. So, yes, I’m Craig. I lead the life science team at VRS. We are a specialist scientific recruitment consultancy. We’ve been going for about 21 years and we recruit into the roles in chemistry, life sciences, engineering, software and sales positions. So, yes, I speak to people from entry level, so BSc, MSc, PhD, postdocs all the way up through to director, and we help scientists gain roles in industry through speaking with them, preparing them for their interviews and, hopefully, placing them.
Brilliant. Thanks, Craig. Katie, could I invite you to introduce yourself next, please?
Yes, course. Thanks, Katie. So, yes. I’m Katie Caine. I am the recruitment business partner for Ashfield MedComms. So Ashfield MedComms is a medical communications agency and we specifically have a entry-level programme targeting associate medical writers coming into the industry. So I head up the recruitment for… We call it the allegro.WRITE programme, which is our 12-month training role into bringing associate medical writers and training them up into medical writers. So I’m responsible for the recruitment process, bringing people in through our testing and assessment centres. Yes, so, again, similar to Craig, dealing with applicants from all kinds of backgrounds but generally life science focus, BScs, MScs, PhDs and postdocs and even people looking for career changes from things like teaching or medics, and stuff that.
That’s great. Thanks, Katie. So, yes, both very similar fields but quite different roles in a sense. So hopefully some good insights will come out from that today. Steph, last but not least.
Hi. Thank you, Katie. So my name is Steph Donaldson. I’m the Executive Director of Business Resources at National Museums Liverpool. So we run seven museums and art galleries across the Liverpool city region and some of you might be familiar with some, if not all, of them. I look after our business resources directorate, so that’s our support services directorate, which includes our HR, our people team that lead on our recruitment. We employ a range of academics and professionals, so curators and conservators and archaeologists, but also in our support services accountants, HR professionals, procurement professionals and marketing. Then we also have a trading company. So that operates at our cafes and our shops and our events business and we do professional filming, as well, on our site. So we recruit in a whole range and quite diverse levels. I also have worked in the wider public sector and in the civil service and also in the private sector, so I have done lots of recruitment myself. Actually, I’ve been through quite a few recruitment processes myself as a candidate over the years. So I hope that I can bring a little bit of insight from my own personal experience as a candidate, and not always a successful one at that, to the mix today. So thank you, Katie, for asking me along and it’s really nice to meet you all. Hello.
Oh, thanks so much, Steph. I think that’s a really important point as well, isn’t it, that some of us have been on the recruiting side, but we’ve all been on the other side, and I think experience on both sides is really valuable. So thank you very much. Okay, so the way that we’ve structured the session today is we’ve structured it into three different parts. So we’re looking at the pre-interview stage, the interview stage and the post-interview stage, which is often quite a neglected area of the recruitment process. But we’re going to talk a little bit about those post interview negotiations, as well. So to come to the first one, pre-interview, this includes, I guess, everything that leads to you getting in front of an interviewer. So that’s application form, CVs, psychometric tests, and we know that different organisations use lots of different methods for assessing people in that initial stage. So that’s what we’re going to explore first. To get that conversation going, we thought we’d ask our participants a question via a quick poll. So if you could answer this one please. Are you confident in your understanding of what makes a good job application? So it’s just a yes or no. I’ll give you a minute or so and then I’ll share the results. Great. Almost all of us have answered this. Okay. So let’s see. So, as you can see… Can you see that, the results of the poll? Yes. So we can see, actually, that we’ve got almost a 50/50 split. So, nine… Happily, actually, 56% of you are confident, but seven out of 16 are not so confident, so, hopefully, we can increase that confidence after today’s session. Okay, so just to ask, perhaps, Steph, first of all: what kind of recruitment tools do you use at NML? What’s the process?
Yes, so we have an online portal and most of our applications will go through that online portal. There are two different ways of uploading an application into the portal and it does depend on the role. So that is what will define it. So for some, we will ask for a CV and a supporting statement, and that supporting statement is probably no more than two pages long. That is you going through the person specification and demonstrating to us a little bit more detail from what’s in your CV, identifying how you meet that person specification. The other is that we put a series of questions into the portal and you respond to those questions. That, again, will be bringing out specifics about your work experience or transferable skills that you might have, but those questions will be based on the critical elements of the person spec. So we are drawing out things that we want to know. Then when those applications come in through the portal, we have a nought to five scoring criteria to… A panel will score every candidate to see the extent to which they meet the requirements of the role and, basically, the highest score becomes those candidates that we will take forward to interview. We also offer support for candidates who can’t submit their application through the portal, for whatever reason, and we will support with providing the application in writing or using other methods to try and get things as accessible as possible to people that might want to work for us. The other way that we do it is through recruitment days. So for more front-of-house roles, we run recruitment days that are where groups of people come together and we will have discussions and perhaps take people through to the next stage through a recruitment day. So it does depend on the nature of the role.
Thanks, Steph. I think that’s quite common, isn’t it, that the use of a supporting statement that addresses the particular criteria of a person spec, in the public sector at least, so it would be interesting to just hear from Katie and Chris about the different practices in different sectors. I think one thing to underline is that to get your insight from the other side, that you really do use that person spec, don’t you, and mark against it, so it is really important, isn’t it, for those type of roles, to address it?
Very, very much so, and I think, as an applicant, that’s what you need to anchor yourself in, especially the essential criteria listed in the person spec. How do I meet that criteria? What I would say, though, Katie, is it’s quite common that a candidate will not meet everything to a huge extent and so don’t be put off if there’s a couple of things where you think, ‘I’ve got a little bit of that, but not much of that.’ I think what you should still do is think about your transferable skills or think about your experiences even outside of the workplace, particularly if you’ve not worked before. You know, think about all the things you’ve done in your life and how that skill, that skill that’s in that person spec… What we want to know is that you have that skill and therefore it might not be through a job that you’ve done. It might be through a project that you’ve worked on or volunteering work that you’ve done or something else that you’ve done in your life, in your personal life. If you can demonstrate that in your statement, then we will absolutely take that into consideration. So don’t be put off if you can’t tick everything off and think, ‘Yes.’ Give some time to how you could apply and demonstrate that you have that skill, because that’s the fundamental thing we’re trying to get at.
Thank you. That’s really useful, I think, Steph, that if you don’t have the skill or the knowledge, that you have the skills to pick it up quickly, as well, I think is… Okay, so could I invite Katie to comment on that? Is it a similar process pre-interview at Ashfield?
Yes. So we advertise all of our roles on our LinkedIn pages, our social media pages. We have quite a standardised and comprehensive recruitment process, but it’s because we’re recruiting for a specific position. So, similar to what Steph said, when we hire, we would look for people to submit their CV along with a supporting statement. So that, for us, we usually give guidance on what we’re looking to see. So we would typically say around 500 words and it should include a rationale as to why you’re interested in the role, the company and a bit more about your backgrounds that we might not get from your CV. So it’s more of a personal statement rather than a repetition of what we can read from the CV. It’s aimed to get a feel for you as an individual more so than what your academic background is. Again, when we receive CVs, we have a recruitment panel. So, similar to Steph, what we would do is every person in that panel would review that CV and give it a profile, and then we would rank and look at who are the strong, then working out borderline people. Is it there or thereabouts? Again, because ours is an entry-level route into the industry, we don’t expect anybody to have any great writing experience. Obviously, you do writing as part of your education, things like dissertations, theses, and stuff that, but, ultimately, we’re looking at a lot of the transferable skills that can be gained from lab experience that might be from volunteering, part-time work, extracurricular stuff that is all relative and it’s all relatable to the role even if you don’t necessarily think it matches there on paper. It’s all about building a broader profile of your ambitions, your resilience, your proactivity. So, yes, that’s all we look for, and then when we bring people through, we have a testing and assessment centre process, but I guess we’ll cover more of that when we talk about the actual interview prep, as well. So that’s about it for us.
That’s great. Thank you, Katie, and thanks for highlighting just how important the non-employment or academic work can be, reinforcing what Steph said. That comes through quite a lot, but it’s not necessarily something that people who’ve pursued an academic career up to this date really necessarily are aware of. There’s probably loads of really valuable experience that they can draw upon beyond the professional experience. Last but not least then, Craig, you come at it from quite a different angle, I suppose, because you’re recruiting for various different organisations.
Yes. So, yes, I sit on the other side of the fence, I guess, and with us it’s all about… Or I guess I am the recruitment tool. I qualify the needs of that business or the needs of that particular position and understand what the greater business needs. Then it’s taking that to the candidate market or to the people who have applied to, say, the job advert and qualifying them against the needs of the business and the needs of that position. Like you said, for entry-level roles, the expectation isn’t always that they have tons and tons of experience doing the exact thing that that business is doing. It’s sometimes more about how have they shown that they can pick up new skills, have they shown a time where they’ve had to go into a project completely brand-new and learn and then apply those skills to come out at the end of the day, like a dissertation or a thesis. Then presenting that candidate to the client, our client, or to the business through… It’s usually a cover letter, but it’s something that we’ve written, not necessarily what the candidate has written themselves. That changes from client to client. Some clients like a tailored cover letter from the candidate directly, because it shows interest, but most of the time it’s just something that we put together which highlights the points and from when we’ve qualified the role.
So you’re really skilled at, basically, being the translator between the CV and the client, so what key things. So that moves us on to the second question, I suppose, about what really makes a candidate stand out. So do you want to take that one first, Craig?
Yes. I think having a normal CV, and I’ll say ‘normal’, is really useful. I think people try too hard to reinvent the wheel and trying to do something new or flashy with their CV or their cover letter. Realistically, what we really want is something that’s clear, concise, easy to read and easy to follow with the relevant experience most prominent within the actual CV itself. So if that was a lab-based role doing cell cultures, for example, their lab-based cell culture work would be front and centre of their CV. Something that really catches my eyes when you’re reading the profile, which I think all CVs should have a profile on, is their ambition or their aim of that job application within that profile itself, because it just spells it out to the client, what they want to do and what they want to achieve. So just say something along the lines of, ‘I want to secure a lab-based position for a company in the north west of England.’ That is fine and simple enough to say, and it just really highlights what their aim is of that application.
Okay. Thanks, Craig. Steph, any further comments on when you’re doing those panels, what makes somebody stand out?
I think, for me, attention to detail. So this isn’t necessarily a positive thing that makes someone stand out, but if a candidate… If it’s clear that they’re just using a statement that they’ve written that they just use for every application, then that can be a little off-putting. So what matters to us is that you’ve taken the time to read the person spec, that you’ve read about the role and that you are putting yourself forward for that role and demonstrating why you’re the right fit for that role. Not just a standard statement that almost, as Katie touched on, just replicates your CV. We’re looking for the added value in that statement and we’re looking for examples. So I think that makes someone stand out. I think tidy presentation. So Craig touched on it, as well – the reinvention of the wheel. It can actually be quite off-putting if a CV is too long or trying a bit too hard, I suppose, is what Craig was getting at. Neat and tidy and succinct presentation and a statement that does what it says on the tin that, actually, if we have asked for you to demonstrate how you meet the essential criteria, then please just demonstrate how you meet that essential criteria and don’t overload it with other things. Ultimately, that’s what we are assessing you against at that stage, and all you really need to do… I know this is my view, but all you really need to get through is that first stage because we’ll be assessing more and looking at more at interview when you get there. So the goal you need to be working on at the first stage is getting yourself into that interview, because that’s when we’ll see so much more of you and get a chance to explore other things. You don’t need to put that into your application. We’ll get there, hopefully.
Thanks, Steph. So you both mentioned a normal CV. So, by that, because, of course, a lot of our postdocs will be really accustomed to the academic CV, which is quite different to the non-academic CV in some respects. So top tips then, two pages, profile at the top. What other sections would you expect to see?
Education, work experience and, depending on what’s most relevant to the job posting, I’d put that first. So, for example, if your PhD was in a certain area of research, but your postdoc is slightly different, but you’re aiming for a job that’s more relevant to that PhD, put that at the top, and, obviously, vice versa. I also quite like the personal section, maybe achievements, something of that nature, just purely because it just gives more personality to that human that you’re just, essentially, judging off words on a page. That doesn’t have to necessarily be academic achievements, as well. That can be ‘ran the Great North Run’ or ‘raised money for a certain charity’, or something like that, or ‘took part in a sports team to this level’. All of that just builds a personality profile before they meet that person, to whether or not it would be a good fit for that team. I think that’s everything, I think.
Thanks, Craig, and how about you, Katie?
Yes, I’d agree and mirror what Craig’s saying in the sense that usually by the time that a candidate has applied to this role, they’ve got an idea of why they’re applying, what it does, and the likelihood is that they’ve got the academic background that we would look for. So often we’re using that CV as a, ‘Is this person right for us as a fit?’ As Craig mentioned, the additional information that can show your personality is really beneficial because sometimes we’ll see quite a flat CV, and on paper it’s got what we’ve asked for, but it’s like, ‘What does this person do for fun? What motivates this person? What makes them tick?’ Again, something that we specifically focus on a lot with us recruiting for a writing position is grammar, punctuation, styling, and it’s more a case of building a story of you. So, again, we’re looking for it to be clear and succinct and go in the right order chronologically or pulling out the key skills and listing those in relevance to the role. Something we see a lot of when we look at, say, PhDs and postdocs who apply to these types of roles is their CV is still very much set up for academia, and we’re thinking about things like, well, if you’re applying to a writing role, we don’t necessarily need a list of the skills of the types of testing or lab work that you’ve done or we don’t necessarily need to know a list of the publications you featured on. It’s more around what are the transferable skills and useful skills that you’ve picked up along the way throughout that and how can you present that to us.
Yes. Thanks, Katie. I think one of the things that’s come back often is that if, let’s say, a job spec says ‘ability to show initiative’, or something that, or some kind of soft skill, one of the problems that you can often encounter in recruitment is that you get a lot of people asserting that they’ve got something without giving examples. I just wondered if you guys had some examples of skills-based competency questions just to give a bit of flavour for those who may not be used to that type of recruitment process. Open question to any of the panel.
Yes. I think that’s a really, really good point, and I think Craig touched on it when he said in the CV to put key achievements, that there’s that element of what are your key achievements that you’ve done either in a role or in other activities that you’ve done. I think it is a little bit of a trap that you could fall into, that’s true. Yes, a really, really good point. I don’t know if Craig wants to come back on that a bit more.
One question I really like is if someone asks, ‘What are you most proud of?’ because that can be quite open. It doesn’t necessarily to be a technical achievement, it doesn’t have to be related to your academic career. It could be something you’ve done in your personal life, and I think it can be quite difficult to get over. I’d be on the back foot if someone asked me what I’m most proud of, so, yes, it’s worth thinking about that.
That reminds me of someone we’ve worked with in the past. Somebody from IBM Research UK mentioned that he was once on a leadership course and one of the activities they had to do as part of the course was write down 50 things that they’re proud of, and that was… They had a week to do it and they said it was seemed really challenging at first, but what it did was get you into the mindset of thinking really positively of everything you’ve achieved, and he put on his list ‘I learnt to swim’, you know, things in the whole history of your life. So that’s quite a useful tip, I think, for getting into that positive mindset. I’m just glancing through the chat and I can see we have a question, and I should, for all of our participants, please do put questions in the chat and we’ll try to get them all covered. So this is a great question from Lenka. Have you got an example of a time when someone’s statement stood out to you? So I guess she’s looking there for anything that really sticks in your head from a particular candidate.
I have quite a good example, a relatively recent example. We had a candidate apply for a role who a year-and-a-half ago had graduated from university with a first in economics and had been unable to find a job. In his statement, he said he was working as a sales assistant in a supermarket, and he said, ‘I’ve been working as a sales assistant in a supermarket for the last 18 months because I’ve been unable to find my dream role. I’ve been able to unable to progress my career coming out of university as I wished, but I’ve taken this as an opportunity and I have been doing this and working in the role in the supermarket, and I’ve also been volunteering for this charity.’ He caught our eye with that statement because… It’s perhaps quite relevant for a number of people on the call when you think about the steps that some of you might be trying to make now, because what he basically said was, ‘I haven’t exactly got the experience that you’re looking for, but what I’ve done is all of these things to make an opportunity of the last 18 months.’ That point you made before about the transferability of things, he was able to say, ‘Therefore, time management and getting things done and working as part of a team, I’ve been doing all of these things.’ So he stood out in the way that he presented his statement in a non-apologetic way, but, ‘For the last 18 months, I’ve been doing this as a way of getting me to where I need to be.’ Yes, that was a bit of a standout for me.
Thanks for that, Steph. That’s a great example, isn’t it, that kind of directness, I suppose. Any other examples that come to mind, anyone? I’m putting you on the spot, I understand.
Yes, we had one, and it was interesting that the girl who had submitted it, she’d been on the website and she’d lifted her cover letter into the company colours, the branding and you read it as like, ‘This colour seems really familiar,’ and it was as if the cover letter had been so carefully tailored to the key skills that we’d asked for in the job description, that she’d gone through and said, ‘And this is my experience of me demonstrating this skill.’ So it was really nice in a story, of more of a compelling argument as to why does her background match and why should we go with her, and that one definitely stood out. I think it was the colours initially. It was like, oh, God, she’s actually really taken the time to read who we are, learn what we do and what we look for and then just that extra flair of, ‘Oh, and I’m going to tailor it specifically to your company, as well.’ That was one that was really great and we ended up hiring her. She’s been with the business a few months now and she’s great. She just said she was really keen and was hoping that little things that are memorable in a sea of CVs where everybody’s got a similar background, similar education level and it’s just those extra things to think about.
Thank you for that great question, Lenka. That’s really added some colour to the discussion, so thank you, and, please, everybody else, do put questions in the chat. Yes, I think we’ve got about five more minutes before we move on to the interview section. So I guess related to this question, but the other side of the coin, what are the common pitfalls that you see that we should guard against and do you have any particular examples of something that really put you off that we should avoid? Again, an open question really.
I don’t mind going first, but I would say proofreading is something that we would just recommend so much because I think when you read the same document over and over, you become blind to some of the mistakes and it’s a case of looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes. Specifically, for us, we are looking at typos, inconsistencies in formatting, spelling mistakes, anything like that, I think, fundamentally, because we’re looking at a writing role. Those are almost like the simple mistakes that even if you were to just send that to a friend and ask them to read through and ask them if it makes sense to them, any people you can pull to help craft that and flag any issues, I would definitely use those as resources just to make sure that what you’re submitting is the highest standard that you can do.
Brilliant. Thanks, Katie, and I wonder, Craig, from your own experience, what puts you off but also have you any experience of what your varied client base is put off by or is particularly attracted by?
This is a bit of a strange one because I’d always encourage people to apply for jobs, but over-applying for jobs, and particularly jobs that aren’t relevant to you or not the right seniority is immensely frustrating, because it just shows a lack of care and you’ve not read the job description, you’re not really interested and you’ve just hit this button that says ‘apply’ and it’s just auto-generated this CV that you have online and sent it to that job posting. It’s kind of odd because it doesn’t necessarily mean that person’s not as good for one of those jobs they’ve applied for, but because they’ve applied for ten jobs, it just feels that they’re not really bothered about any of them. It dilutes that interest in at least one of them. Then, same as Katie, not tailoring, typos, obvious spelling errors. When we read CVs all the time, it just becomes immensely obvious when someone’s just does not care, has not tailored and there’s obvious grammatical errors. So, yes, I would just say over-applying and not tailoring your approach is… Yes.
So I think a really key point that’s coming out is that, even pre the application stage, the applicant has really given some thought to what they want and is applying for a job that they truly want and understand why they’re applying for it, which is, yes, it’s an important part of Prosper, supporting that process and encouraging that process. I think it’s interesting that that comes out here, as well. Anything to add, Steph?
No, I absolutely agree. I think the attention to detail point, and I’d mentioned it earlier myself, didn’t I, and the point of applying for… The number of times we see applications where the person just does not… For example, if there’s a requirement for you to be a chartered accountant and you are not a chartered accountant, then it will go no further. So transferable skills are all very well, and I know I made that point earlier, but if the job is of director of finance and it requires a degree of experience and seniority and a chartered accountant qualification, then don’t apply if you don’t have those things. It’s surprising how often that happens. Something else I do see, which I also find surprising, is that in the supporting statement, some candidates will just say, ‘Please see my CV,’ and not actually expand on the points. Now, what a missed opportunity that is. What a missed opportunity. Bearing in mind that we are scoring against how well they meet the essential criteria, if you haven’t expanded on it, then all we’ve got to go on is your CV, and if your see CV is quite succinct and to the point, as we’ve just said it probably needs to be, it’s unlikely you’ve given that level of detail. So I do think, again, you’ve got an opportunity there, you’ve got 500 words, I think Katie said, you’ve got two sheets of A4 at NML. Use that as an opportunity to expand and provide the detail that’s relevant to the job description. It is amazing how many people don’t take that opportunity and, as a result, probably don’t get shortlisted when perhaps they would have done if they’d just taken the time. Maybe that goes back to Craig’s point. Maybe they are just putting a lot of applications in for a lot of jobs and what they’re not really demonstrating is that this is really the job that they really want.
So better to do one really thoughtful application than ten non-targeted applications. Sorry, Craig.
I was going to just add, I think this is probably the best section to add it in, but don’t be afraid to ask the hiring manager what they want, what they expect to see. I think we spend a lot of time assuming that you know what the company wants based on you, but if you’re unsure about it, there’s absolutely no harm in going to either the recruiter or the hiring manager or, yes, or the in-house recruiter, or anything like that, to actually ask them explain what you want. That’s not going to hinder your application. You’re still going to be scored, like this lady said, against the criteria, but you’ll have a much more tailored, much more relevant application if you do so. Now, I’m not saying pester people and email them and InMail them every day and ring them, but one specific message to a hiring manager can do a world of good.
Thank you so much for that point, Craig. I think that’s a really important point and it’s something that’s come up with our engagement with employers before. Often when roles are advertised, there’ll be an indication of who you can contact if you have any informal inquiries, and it’s not that often that opportunity is taken up, and that’s a real missed opportunity, as well, a real shame. So, yes, thanks for that. Just before we move on to interview, we’re running slightly behind schedule, but one thing I wanted to pick up on, because it has come up a little bit and we do do a lot on it in Prosper, we haven’t really talked about LinkedIn. Does that play much of a role in your recruitment process? Is it merely a way that – where you advertise the role or do you informally get candidates or draw up candidates via LinkedIn, or what’s the role of LinkedIn there?
I think I spend about 80 per cent of my day on LinkedIn, either searching for candidates, advertising positions or understanding if there are any more companies we can work with. So I would say it’s almost your second CV. It’s not quite taken over the traditional CV or traditional application process, but I think it’s really useful when you’re trying to identify the people that you’re making the application to, what their background is, what they’ve done, and more when you get into the interview process, who’s actually interviewing you, do they have a similar background to you, and just knowing who your audience is and who you’re actually speaking to. That’s half the battle, right? If you’re going into an interview and you think you’re speaking to the technical hiring manager and it’s actually someone from HR who’s assessing your personality, then you’ve messed up there because you don’t know what you’re interviewing for. It’s going to be a completely different interview, what you prepared for. So I think that’s just really useful, but that’s one of the main reasons I’d use LinkedIn, as a candidate anyway.
Thanks, Craig. Any further comments on LinkedIn from Steph or Katie on the pre-interview process? It may come up again later.
Yes. I’d also say if you are wanting to learn more about what the job is, there’s no harm in reaching out to people who do that job in the company you’re applying to to ask them, ‘What does your typical day look like? Would you mind telling me a bit about your experience or how did you find the recruitment process?’ because nine times out of ten you will get a response and people will always be happy to talk about how they got into the role that they’re in and how they found it. So use people on LinkedIn and talk to them. From a recruitment perspective, we post our roles on there, but we also use it to post things like day-in-the-life stories, webinars where we’re talking about roles. It might be nuggets of information campaigns that we’ve done that you might name-drop in your cover letter or name-drop in your interview. It just gives the hiring manager an idea that, ‘Okay, this person is serious, they have taken the time to look at our activities and what we do.’ So, yes, I’d say LinkedIn is definitely a great tool.
The only thing I would add to that, sometimes I think reading about the organisation alone, understanding the organisation; if you have that understanding, it can enhance your application, definitely. One of the things that we fairly recently started doing is live event webinars. So we run these on a monthly basis and any vacancies that we have coming up in that month, we will have the recruiting manager talking a little bit about the role and the team. You can find out a little bit more, generally, about NML, and you just get a good feel for the culture. We’re all sat there in a live event doing something similar to what we’re doing now – there’s questions and answers and you can put your questions in anonymously – and we record them and put them on our website and we put them on LinkedIn. So you can also go back and watch them if perhaps you missed it or you can watch it again. I think that helps, because applying for a job and going through an interview isn’t just about you being right for the organisation, it’s about the organisation being right for you too, and it works both ways. If you don’t get a good feel for the culture of somewhere, then maybe they’re not right for you, whether you’re right for them or not. I think having these opportunities just gives you that insight and will no doubt help you come across better in an interview, as well, if you get to that stage because you get them a bit better.
Yes. Great points, Steph, thanks, and you’ve nicely led us into the interview stage, which is very great, fortuitous. Okay, so, again, to start this next section, we’re going to start with a poll again. So we’re going to ask you all what you think is the most important thing to do in preparation for interview. So let’s see. I think you can click more than one, but maybe click a maximum of three. We’ll give about 30 seconds on that. Okay. Just a few more people to participate. Okay. We’ll give you five more seconds. I can see most people have participated. Yes. Okay, so these are the results. So I think it’s great that research the company and role is the top one. I think I’d agree with that. I don’t know about our panel. Have a few questions to ask panellists, yes, and mock interview has come up as the top three. Prepare an answer bank and practice your speaking voice and body language are the less important ones according to our panel and participants. Any comments on that from any of the panel?
Yes, I think there’s a lot of information online about… I think it really over-complicates what an interview is. An interview is an opportunity for you to sell your CV even better and give some personality to who you are, and I think… I always say to my candidates, the three main things is know the company and know why you want to work with me, know your CV and what makes you a good fit for that job and that company. Then the third thing is nothing technical whatsoever; it’s just personality focus. Be enthusiastic, be positive, ask questions, understand whether it’s a good fit for you and you’re not just answering their questions. Make it more of a conversation, if you can. I think the best interviews are the ones where you look at the time and go, ‘Oh, it’s been an hour already,’ and you always have to invite them back because you’ve not even finished talking about anything that you want to talk about. So, yes, those are the three core areas that I would say.
That’s a really useful scaffold, that, Craig. Would you agree with that, Katie/Steph?
Yes, definitely. Definitely.
Yes, absolutely. I think you’re going to take your whole self to work, aren’t you, so you have to be yourself in an interview too. I think it is about understanding the organisation, but also being able to demonstrate why you’re the right fit for them. I think Craig made some really, really good points there about what you need to have in your armoury almost when you arrive at interview. Very much so. Very much so.
Great. So to take those in turn then, so know the company, we’ve talked about LinkedIn as a tool for that. Any other top tips for getting a real sense of the company in advance of an interview?
As I say, most companies have a news bulletin on their website and most people keep it up-to-date or they have blogs of people who work there, and they’re really useful. I use that to actually understand the different departments I’m hiring into, as well, because it gives me a flavour to the type of people who are in that department and what kind of person would fit that department. So they’re really useful, news and the blog section of each of the websites.
Yes. I’d say social media too. So we’ve got marketing teams that have all the usual social media channels and they will post various things. Even if you have a look and it’s like, ‘Okay, I kind of get the gist of what they’re doing,’ it all sinks in and helps you build a picture of, ‘Oh, what might they be looking to hear about when they’re asking these sorts of questions at interview?’ So, yes, definitely use websites, blog posts, social media.
For us, I would say visit the museums or the galleries. It depends on the nature of the role, but it’s a role in exhibitions, then google and we’ll tell you what exhibitions we’ve got coming, what exhibitions we’ve had previously. Go and visit one of our exhibitions. If it’s a back-of-house role perhaps in finance or in governance, I’d say read our strategic plan or go on our website and cast your eye over our accounts, where you’ll be able to get a lot of information. So I think it does depend on the role. For somewhere like National Museums Liverpool that is a public-facing organisation, there can’t be any substitute for actually walking around our venues and getting a feel for what we do and experiencing it like a visitor does. It gives you a chance, as well, to chat to our staff, doesn’t it? So you can live the experience a little bit. Again, what makes someone stand out at interview, if someone says, ‘I saw that exhibition,’ or, ‘I went there,’ or, ‘I love that venue,’ then it does make a difference. I distinctly remember having those conversations in my own interview for this job because I knew the venues really well and I’d visited them lots, and I couldn’t help myself say it. It wasn’t a deliberate thing as part of my rehearsal for the interview; it just came across and I said it, because I’d been in the venue so many times and I knew them and I knew it was somewhere that I’d always wanted to work. I think that enthusiasm just comes across naturally, it just gives you the edge. If you’ve made the effort, the prep shows then, doesn’t it, and it will invariably give you the edge on the day.
I think one last final thing is they’re not expecting you to be an expert in the role or the company, because you’ve not worked in the industry, so why would you be an expert, but if you’re reading about the company on maybe the ‘about’ page or the news page and there’s some industry terminology that you don’t know what it is, go away and research what that actually is, because that’ll make a world of difference in an interview if you find out about this particular industry and it was a certain term that you didn’t know, but you went away and did some research and now you understand it better. It just shows that you’ve done that little bit extra, or that extra mile, and that really, really stands out.
Thanks for that, Craig. Yes. All really good advice, panel, thank you. How about a quick word on presentations at interview? How common are they? How often do you expect people to deliver a presentation, and any top tips for that?
Yes, I think… Oh, sorry, Katie.
Oh, no, you carry on. Go ahead.
I think for sales positions or applications positions where you’re customer-facing, you will almost, I think, 100 per cent of the time, be asked to do a presentation. Sometimes that presentation isn’t about what you know technically; it’s about how you deliver information to a potential stakeholder, whether that be external or internal. They are common in those types of positions, but what I would say is stick to the brief. If it’s a 20-minute presentation, do a 20-minute presentation. If it’s a 15-minute presentation, do a 15-minute presentation. We have one of our clients who asked them to put three slides together to tell them about their entire research career, and I think that’s quite a tough one because some people have a 20-year research career and you’re telling me, ‘Why have you asked me to do three slides?’ Well, that’s the point. Can you take information in and can you learn it and then present what they’ve asked, present to the brief? But yes.
Can you find that coherent narrative, I suppose?
Yes. I’ve had interviews with and without presentation and I always prefer the ones with the presentation because I find them quite calming. You can prepare for it. If you’re prepared, you can do it and then it calms you for the questions, but others may feel differently. What do you think, Steph?
Yes, I agree. It’s interesting that Craig said sales roles, you nearly always get asked. We would only ask for a presentation… In most cases, we’ll ask for a presentation if it’s something that you would probably have to do in the role, but we wouldn’t ask for other roles where that might never be the case. So a curator, for example, won’t be required to do presentations. Therefore, we wouldn’t ask. When we do ask, it is as much about the delivery, the time management, it’s all of those things, less so, I guess sometimes, the content. Other things that we might do is we might do a short written test and sometimes we do the written test in advance. So we’ll send it out and have it timed and you email it back after 20 minutes, or whatever, and then we will mark it for the actual interview and then we’ll ask the candidate how they found it and perhaps we’ll give them some feedback. Other things that we have done is case studies. So through COVID, we were doing online interviews, of course, and we would share a little case study on the screen and give the candidate five minutes to read the case study, and then we’d have a chat about the case study afterwards. In a face-to-face interview, we’ll hand them out on paper and then give them some time to read it and then we’ll have a chat about it. Again, these are dependent on the roles, but they are to see some of those softer skills – how quickly do you take on the information, do you understand it, how off the cuff can you have a discussion around what’s in there? It’s not, as Craig said, about trying to see… We don’t expect you to be experts in the sector. No, we don’t. It’s more about some of those other abilities to take in information, to manage your time, to be able to respond and have a discussion. And if there’s a point in there that you don’t understand, it’s actually fine to say, ‘I’m no expert on that. I don’t understand that, but…’ and apply logic in your answer, that’s okay too. We wouldn’t actually mark you down for that. I would be happier that somebody said, ‘I don’t understand a point. I don’t know anything about that,’ than waffle something that is irrelevant. I actually think it shows honesty and integrity and, at the end of the day, there’s always things in a job that you don’t know that you’re going to have to go and find out, so I would not mark someone down for that.
Yes. I was about to add about the presentations, as well, is usually when you get sent a presentation brief by a company, it’ll say, ‘Please let me know if you’ve got any questions.’ If you’ve got questions, ask them. So we would usually give guidance on, ‘This is how many slides we’re looking for,’ or, ‘You’ve got 15 minutes to present.’ It might be more a personal reflection presentation or it could be based on a scenario, but if you’re reading those instructions and thinking, ‘Oh, I’m not sure what angle to focus in on,’ or you’ve got questions, just ask, because we would rather you ask the question before you start spending your time developing them than turn up and realise that you’ve completely missed the point of the exercise. So, yes, so that was one thing. Then, from our perspective, we actually run assessment days. So we don’t do presentations specifically in there, but we do more like a group task in which you’d be set a project, a mini project. You might be given half an hour in your team to pull together research to then present back to the group. Again, it’s not so much we’re looking to judge your understanding on the task you’ve been given, but a lot of it is the softer skills of how did you delegate roles and responsibilities in your team, how did you think about presenting that back to the audience, your confidence, your ability to relay information. So, again, not that these tasks are ever red herrings, but sometimes it’s less about the task and more about how you approach it and how you deal with the scenario in front of you. We’re testing things like your aptitude, resilience and all those sorts of things.
So it’s testing the process rather than the output, basically, yes. Yes, and how about… So we’re coming to the end of the interview then. How about questions? So a quick question to everybody on the panel before we have a short break and move on to the last part. Do you always have to ask questions? If someone says, ‘Do you have any questions?’ and they say no, is that always a bad thing, and what are examples of good questions and bad questions?
I think you should always ask questions, and it’s purely… You don’t have to overthink it. I always say to my candidates, ‘Think about if I put you in that role tomorrow, what questions would you need to know in order for you to do your job?’ A lot of those questions like, ‘Well, what projects am I working on?’ so what projects are the team working on. ‘Who am I reporting to? Who are the people I need to speak to most? What does a typical day look like? What’s the culture of the team?’ As soon as you imagine yourself in the role, you suddenly have about 15,000 questions that you need to ask in order to do the role. Whereas if you just think, ‘Oh, what are the questions?’ and you’re like, ‘Oh, I’ve got my notepad with me. Oh, I don’t know what that is,’ you just get yourself into a bit of a hole and you can’t get yourself out of it. I’d also say you can take questions in. Just tick them off as they get answered throughout the presentation. So when you come to it, just say, ‘I’m prepared. I’ve got my questions with me. Oh, can I just ask this question?’ and just refer to your notes. I always tell my candidates to take their CV in and make notes throughout because you always forget. I think when you do an interview, it’s so intense, you just forget exactly what everyone said the entire time and you come out going, ‘Did I actually enjoy that or not, because I can’t remember anything they asked me.’ But, yes, feel free to do that, as well.
And what about bad questions, Craig?
Bad questions. What’s the pay? Is overtime paid? It’s usually related to salary, I’d say, a bad question, certainly in the first initial interview. The reason that you’re applying for that role has got to be more than the fact it pays X amount of money. There’s got there’s got to be some passion there to do that job. Yes, I think a really interesting question, and it’s very bold, so I wouldn’t necessarily encourage everyone to do it, and you have to know how well it’s gone, is, ‘Is there anything I’ve missed today that you want me to clarify from my answers?’ because I think you can say one thing and mean something else and the person on the other side of the panel can be like, ‘Oh, I’m not sure about that.’ An example of that was I had a candidate who said they were a high achiever, but the HR person received that as they’re a bit cocky. But he didn’t mean it like that; he just meant he had high expectations for himself. So he asked, ‘Oh, can I clarify…? Do I have to clarify any questions?’ And he clarified what he meant by that and it was absorbed better than the first time he said it. So, yes.
I think, to agree with what Craig said there – he said some really great things – is to try and make the questions meaningful. If you’re at the end of an interview and you’re put on the spot and you think, ‘Oh, I haven’t got any questions,’ try to avoid the obvious ones like information that would have been very visible from the website such as, ‘What offices do you have?’ because by that point we’re hoping that you’ll have looked, you might know. So it’s about using that as an opportunity for you to get something out of it rather than just asking something for the sake of filling the silence.
I think I’d agree with that. I think Craig said try and ask a question if you can, but I was once in an interview when I had a couple of really good questions ready and they ended up getting covered in the interview. So I did just say, ‘I did have a couple of things I was going to ask, but it was this and this, and I think we’ve covered it.’ I think, for me, a couple of good questions to ask are, ‘What would be the main things you’d want me to focus on when I take on the role? What would be the top three things that you’d want me to focus on?’ Depending on the role, quite a good question is, ‘What would success look like for this role? For me to really achieve, what would that look like?’ I think it does depend on the role. If you are leading a team, if you’re going to be managing a team, it’s really nice to ask about the team, and with hybrid working, and all that kind of stuff, there’s more and more roles where teams might be geographically split and you wouldn’t necessarily be sitting in an office with your teammates anymore. So it’s quite good to explore that kind of thing, as well – where the team is located and how do the team come together. So particularly for team roles or for line management roles, asking questions about that is useful for you to know, but it also shows that you’re really, really interested in the team and there’s a lot of value in that.
Thanks, Steph. Some really good tips and tricks there. I know I’ve taken some of them on board. I just want to pick up, and maybe we’ll pick it up in greater detail, I think, in the next section, but I’m curious about all of your opinion on is talking about anything to do with pay and conditions a complete no-no pre-offer. Because I’m thinking if you’re… I wouldn’t say in an interview necessarily, ‘What’s the salary?’ but if you’re applying for a public sector role a role in a larger organisation, the salary band might be advertised in advance. A lot of roles in the private sector seem to be competitive, so are we really expected to not have any discussion of salary and put all this preparatory effort in before we have any idea of what the salary is going to be? Because that’s just not realistic, is it?
Go on, Craig, you do it.
No. Go on, you go first.
So I was going to say it kind of depends on who it is you’re talking to. So, for example, in our process, you would speak to me in the recruitment team before you speak to the hiring manager. I would say ask me those questions rather than ask the person who is interviewing you, or try and get that information before you go into the interview, because if the salary is just not there, where you need it to be, you might not want to waste your time and go forward with the application anyway. So, yes, I’d say it depends on when you’re asking in the process and who it is you’re asking, but I certainly wouldn’t be against asking hiring managers, ‘What is the progression like? How long could I expect to be in this role before a promotion?’ or, ‘How often are pay reviews?’ because they’re the things that you might want to know. But I think, concrete, if you’re going to make a decision on whether to go somewhere, you really need to know. But, yes, maybe just be cautious about when and how you ask, and who you ask.
I think sometimes you’re interviewing and it’s a panel interview, and it will usually be the hiring manager, someone from HR and then maybe a peer or someone who is at a similar level to you, or usually a level above, or something like that. I think that’s where it can have difficulties with asking and approaching the salary subject, because in a business, although there is banding, there are going to be people on different salaries for different reasons, whether that be education, whether that be more experience in a position, and sometimes that’s just not… Well, it’s very British; it’s just not the done thing to have a conversation openly about that. I think it will, I think it is getting better in the private sector, but a lot of it’s due to banding and where someone sits in the role, and if it’s appropriate to talk about someone on banding one or banding two and what that salary means.
But, Craig, if someone’s come to you, if someone’s come via their recruitment agency, presumably they’ve had that chat with you before going for their interview?
Yes, 100 per cent. Yes, every single time, yes. I know what their current salary is, what their package is, what benefits they like, what benefits they want to keep, whether it’s annual leave, whether that’s a bonus, whether that’s pension they’re particularly interested in, and then I manage that expectation to the client. So the client should not be interviewing someone if they’re giving them less money. So I’ll have that conversation pre-application, say, ‘I’m speaking to this candidate. They have an expectation of this.’ Sometimes a client will be like, ‘That’s fine, let’s interview them against that criteria,’ because that might be a certain level, say almost like 35,000, it’ll be a senior scientist, we’re interviewing against a senior scientist criteria, but they might interview that against a senior scientist criteria and not meet it and just be a scientist level. Therefore, the salary expectation would be less. So that conversation has to… I think that’s a really good way of using your recruiter, really, to know who, like Katie is that those difficult questions that I can do, I’m the third party to it and I can have those difficult questions, and often it’s helpful in negotiation because it’s quite a difficult subject, salary. Yes.
Just to understand how the different interests operate in that kind of scenario, what is your business model? Do you get paid a proportion of the salary? Are you invested in the candidate getting a higher salary or does it make no difference to you?
I love this question. The more you get paid, the more I get paid.
But having said that, we have… It’s quite weird because I’m in the position I have my candidates and I value what my candidates want. I also have my clients, I need to keep to the client budget, as well. So it’s understanding both parties and quite often it’s candidate A wants 40,000, clients can only pay 36. Can we meet in the middle? Often it’s that managing that expectation on both sides of the process. But, yes, if recruiters are asking you for the money, just don’t use them. It’s a free service to use. We get paid by the people who end up hiring you, and it’s not a proportion of your salary, it’s a percentage, usually, a percentage of the fee. So a percentage of the basic salary is usually what we get paid, but it’s not out of the salary budget and often it’s a separate budget.
That’s good to know. Alright. Well, we’ll get on to more salary negotiations in the final part, but seeing as that’s quite a long session, I thought we’d take a five minute break. Hello. Welcome back, everyone. Right, so we’ve got about 20 minutes left and we were going to use this final session to talk about post-interview. Any tips for either negotiations and also the first week or so of starting a new role? Because that’s quite a lot to cover in just the 20 minutes, I thought I’d take a quick poll in the chat of our participants to see would you like us to cover both of those things or just focus on one in particular, and we’ll go with the majority. I can see, actually, that someone called Prem earlier asked a question that we didn’t get a chance to cover. He or she has said: if the applicant meets some of the key requirement criteria, but not all of them, e.g. programming skills, is it still recommended to apply for that role? I’m sorry we didn’t pick that up earlier, but I think Steph did actually cover that early on. So I don’t know if you caught that at the beginning, Prem, but the recording will be available on the portal shortly after, so hopefully you can see the answer to that. Essentially, I think the answer was, yes, if you can show transferable skills, don’t worry about meeting everything unless it’s a particular specific professional qualification. Okay. Any messages in the chat about whether you would prefer the salary discussion, the settling in discussion? I can see that nobody has commented… So Lenka’s commented, salary. Thanks, Lenka. Both. We’ll try to cover both then, shall we? So ten minutes on each. Quick poll. Let’s see. Would you feel comfortable negotiating a higher salary? Yes. So, oh, we had a few ‘no’s but now we’re pretty even-stevens. I will share the responses in a second. Okay. So almost a 50/50 split. Seven would feel comfortable. Eight wouldn’t. That’s good to hear. So let’s see if we can help the eight. So any comments from the panel on this?
Two things… Oh, go on.
Sorry, Katie, go on. I could see you nodding then, and then we’ll…
Oh, yes. I was going to say Craig’s probably the best person to start. He probably sees this from all angles. Yes. I’d go with Craig.
Even more now. I think, obviously, the general economy at the moment and people are needing more money because everything’s more expensive, so I have this conversation almost daily. Essentially, I would say always ask, but ask politely. In an ideal world, the company shouldn’t be going to you with an offer that they don’t think you’re going to accept, but we don’t live in an ideal world. So I would always say there is almost always some room for negotiation. However, there’s a way of going about it. So I’ll give an example of a negative way of going about it. We had a salary discussion, we managed expectations from the client’s point of view all the way through the process, and the client offered what we initially said. Then the candidate decided that they wanted £10,000 more than what was initially said. Now, I’d say that was a pretty poor attempt at getting £10,000 more, because what ended up happening is that the client got upset with that and just took the offer away purely based on just not understanding that was an unacceptable thing to ask for at such a late stage of the process. It was a family-run business.
What was the initial salary? Sorry to interrupt, but just to get a sense of scale.
Fifty-five was the initial. They asked for sixty-five. We tried to ask this candidate, ‘Well, why has it gone £10,000 up?’ We went all through all the process. We suggested they don’t go and ask for £10,000 more. They asked for £10,000 more and the offer withdrew. They now don’t have a job. So that’s a poor way of going about it. The correct way of going about it. ‘I’m really, really happy with the offer. I really, really want to join the organisation. What I was hoping for was a little bit more on the salary,’ say a number that you might have in mind. Often the client will go, ‘Great, this person really wants to join us, they’re very positive about it, but we need to do a little bit more,’ and sometimes that will be an extra thousand, an extra 2000. Sometimes they’ll meet you exactly what you’ve asked for. But I would say there’s always room for negotiation; it’s just the way you approach it.
Okay. Thanks, Craig. Katie/Steph, anything to add?
Yes, I would say as well, when you are asked what salary you’re looking for, don’t lowball yourself and ask for something later on. If the salary that you want upfront is the minimum you’re going to need to accept a role, then just say that upfront. Don’t play it down and say, ‘Oh, anywhere in the region of…’ If you’ve already done the maths and you know what works for you to live and get to work, and all those things, then ask for it. I would also say in some companies there’ll be a set salary. So, say, it’s an entry-level job, that salary might be set and there is no negotiation, but in most cases in other roles, there will be wiggle room. It might be that the role has got a sliding scale of salary dependent on experience. If your experience is at the lower end, but you start on a salary somewhere in the middle, that might just mean that you have further – oh, sorry, less room to grow when you develop. So you might be catching up on your experience to meet your salary. So I’d say the best way to view it is of a sliding scale of does your experience meet that bracket of salary that the client has got in their budget, and if they do bring you in on a bit higher than what they initially had planned, it might mean that your first pay rise might be a little bit less than what you were thinking, because they’re still playing within that banding.
Thanks, Katie. Any insights from Steph? I know there’s probably bands and…
Sorry, I was just going to add, I just think it’s bizarre that this is such a difficult conversation to have, but it is a really difficult conversation to have. As a candidate, it drives me mad when a job is advertised from such-and-such or up to such-and-such or ‘competitive’, which is like ‘competing against whom?’ I do think it’s really, really a tough gig and I do think it needs to be… Despite that, it does have to be handled sensitively, so, Craig, I think you made a really good point there. Actually, Katie, you touched on the point I was going to make, which is fairly recently NML moved to flat rates for the job. So we have identified the salary for a particular job, and if you are doing that job, that’s what you’ll be paid, and any uplift on annual pay increases is for everyone, because we have determined that you will all get paid the same for doing the same job. However, candidates that apply for our jobs don’t necessarily know that and assume that there will be some room for negotiation. So the way that we are managing that now is we have that conversation at the interview. So at the point where we’ve asked the interview questions and you’ve done the presentation or the case study or whatever it was, and we’re just getting to the point where we’re about to ask you if you have any questions, we do a few logistics around things our flexible working policy, our hybrid and agile working arrangements and the fact that the salary that we’ve advertised at is the offer we would be making if we were making an offer. That means that a candidate is informed. If they thought there was going to be some flexibility on that and they were actually going to get an extra 10,000, then they’re not disappointed when, if we make an offer, it’s as it was advertised. Unfortunately, that has meant somebody could turn us down, but, as an organisation, I like that we have that policy. I like that we pay everyone that does the same job exactly the same rate of pay. So, for me, I like it, but it’s something that we have to manage at interview stage now, because elsewhere it’s very, very common to negotiate.
That’s, yes, really interesting insights from different sectors, and I think one of the key takeaways perhaps is it’s always worth asking, asking politely, unless you’ve been advised in advance that it’s not a possibility. I just thought I’d share, again, it is very different depending on the sector, isn’t it? One of our employer stakeholders, a University of Liverpool alumni now, he’s a former theoretical physicist, now MD of a FTSE 100 company, half-a-billion-pound company, he said to me, ‘If somebody doesn’t ask for more money, I think there’s something wrong with them.’ So you’ve got that side, as well. I mean, that’s in a very commercial context, but yes.
I would say that’s typical of sales positions. It’s quite funny, actually. I’m always shocked if a sales person doesn’t ask to negotiate because that’s their job to negotiate. So how are they not…? If you’re buying something, you’re wanting to negotiate and I think that’s just a really good show of your experience and how you approach negotiations. I had to do the same in my job. I negotiated my salary very recently, because, well, I thought I was… It’s different when you’re actually in the business because you’ve got tangible reasons why you’re asking for more money, and it’s difficult when you’re fresh to a certain role or a certain sector when you’ve not got those tangibles. So what I would say is, alongside this conversation about negotiating salaries, think about what that role is going to do for you and your career, not just what you get in your bank account at the end of each month because, realistically, you could come in on a lower salary than another position, but you could learn infinitely more and then you can progress your career further later on down the line. I think everything always catches up. You can always get more money, but what you can’t get is more experience and more training. That is so, so, so crucial to get those senior-senior roles is your early part of your career in industry has to be quite full-on with training and learning and developing, because then you can actually talk about those experiences, and that’s when the big money comes.
Thanks, Craig. That’s really useful. I’m just conscious of time and I just wanted to ask one more question on this negotiation before we move on to the first couple of weeks in the job. Just wanted to highlight that, of course, the negotiation isn’t only about salary; that’s only part of the package, as you’ve identified. So any comments on flexible working or any other negotiations, if you could keep it brief, please, panel, perhaps a minute, max. How would you advise a candidate to approach those conversations, perhaps if they wanted to work flexibly or had caring responsibilities or any of those kind of issues? I can see Steph nodding. Do you want to go first, Steph?
Yes. So we have a flexible working policy and we discuss that in our live events, in our recruitment live events and we have details of it in our person spec. So in our little recruitment panel, there would be details there. I would say if that’s something that you would want to explore further, then it’s potentially a question to ask at the end of the interview if we haven’t already covered it. Because, actually, it gives you an opportunity to have a discussion about options, but it also lets the prospective employer know that that’s something that you’re going to want to likely consider, that it does mean that when we make the offer, then we can then explore it with you a little bit more. But, absolutely, I think it’s becoming more of a thing now, isn’t it, that people feel that they can ask and that flexibility is something in the workplace. So it’s so important. Yes, I think ask early doors, and I would say it’s a good question to ask at interview, but certainly explore at offer stage if you get to that stage, because it’s got to work for you. Craig just said about all the other benefits, and this is a huge thing for you, this is your next job. If it’s about how you’ll be trained, the development you’ll get or how flexible you can be to pick up your kids from work, from school or to work from home a couple of days a week, or whatever, you need to get all that nailed at the start. The last thing you want to do is rock up on your first day and just discover that there’s an expectation that you’ll be in an office four days a week and that office is a one-hour commute away and, actually, that’s not going to work for you. So you’ve got to square those things up early doors.
Thank you, Steph. Do you agree, Craig?
Yes. Just a quick one on benefits packages are usually negotiable. So if you get a company bonus, that’s what everyone gets. You’re not going to get an extra 10 per cent bonus. Your annual leave is, what, 25 days. You’re not going to magically get another 30 days’ annual leave just because you’ve asked for it, and same with employer pension contributions or medical care. Salary is potentially negotiable, but benefit packages are very, very, very rare unless you’re an extremely senior human being, that you’re going to get anything more on those types of things. So I’d go into that and have that mindset that you’re not going to get extra holiday; it’s holidays as advertised.
Yes. Okay. Anything further from you, Katie, on the flexible working or any other type of negotiation?
I would agree with Steph and Craig to say, yes, both those things, really.
Brilliant, really useful insights. Thank you, everyone. Right, so before we finish, we do have a few more minutes just to discuss any top tips from the panel on those first weeks, couple of months in the job when people are really keen to deliver, but also have lots to learn. Any advice on dealing with that first phase of a new role?
I would just say manage your own expectations. You’re not going to be an expert straightaway, and just learn, and just keep learning and ask questions.
Very useful, very succinct. Thanks, Craig. Katie?
Yes, I was going to say ask questions. Even if you think, ‘Is this an obvious question? Am I hassling this person?’ if you don’t ask it when you’re up front and new, you might be a few months down the line, thinking, ‘Oh, God, I wish I’d have really asked that question. I’ve no idea what this means when they talk about this word or topic.’ So you’re, essentially, a sponge those first few weeks whilst you’re getting to grips with not only the job, but the processes, the systems, the culture. So soak it all in and just ask as you go along and try and use it as a tool to learn all the things you need to make you successful in that setting.
I would absolutely agree with that. I think people will expect you to ask questions early on. They probably expect you to ask questions less… As Katie said there, the things that you wish you’d asked at the start, just ask them at the start because, to begin with, that’s the expectation. I think just be yourself. A good employer should give you the time as part of your induction process to read the intranet, get up to speed with the systems, read background information. You’ll normally find that your diary has the gaps early doors. Certainly, I’ve found that, I guess, especially as I’ve moved into more senior roles, that first couple of weeks your diary is quite quiet and after that, it’s chaotic. So the time to sit down and really absorb stuff is those first few weeks and you should make the most of that. I think, as well, your relationship with your line manager and your peers is critical too. So take time to forge those relationships, because they’re the people that you will be asking support from or that you’ll be asking questions of. Again, a good employer would encourage you or maybe even set up coffees with your peers or coffees with your managers, your main contacts, your main stakeholders, go out for lunch. It’s about you getting to know them as people as well as you getting to know the business. Get to know your team. I think taking the time to do that, it shows a lot about you as well as helps you fit in. So I do think that that social element is quite important, and I think it’s something that during COVID, when people were starting work remotely, was particularly difficult to do. If you end up in an environment where you’re hybrid working, it can be quite hard to get to know people when you’re not having a chat at the water cooler or able to go out for a coffee. So be aware that you might have to put a little bit of effort in to make some of that happen, and I just hugely encourage you to do it, because relationships at work are so critical to you being happy in work and successful in your job.
All such fantastic advice from every member of the panel. Thank you so much for today. What I would like to ask before we leave is if everybody who’s attended today could just share one key takeaway in the chat, please. It’d just be really useful, I think, for the panel and for us, as Prosper, just to understand what’s been most useful from today. If you could just take just a little moment to write it in. While you’re doing that, we have just a couple of minutes left and I can see one participant has asked a really important question, which we may not have time to cover in full. I’ll read it out, see if the panel have any initial thoughts. What I’m going to suggest that we do is pick that up with you separately. I’ll email it to you and see if we can get a separate answer for that if we don’t have time to cover it here. The question is: I have one more question. What is your advice on disclosing health issues or disabilities and accommodations that may be needed? When would it be best and how?
Can I answer this one. I’ll answer this one from a personal perspective, if that’s okay. So I’m deaf, and I read and I wear hearing aids. So I always disclose that early doors. I always disclose that at the point of application, because, clearly, I’m partially deaf, but I wear hearing aids, I can lip read and, clearly, you’ll see from the way I’ve engaged today that that doesn’t actually cause me too much difficulty in a setting like this. In an interview setting, it can be quite hard for me depending on how a discussion moves around in the room in a recruitment day setting, I can find that quite difficult. A telephone interview is a nightmare for me; I can’t do telephone interviews. So I think you are much better to say it early doors, and any prospective employer worth their salt will make adjustments to accommodate you at the absolute… I mean, apart from the fact that they should, so legally they should, they’re not worth working for if they’re not prepared to do that. So I just think be absolutely up front, absolutely upfront about it.
Yes. Yes. I would agree and say the earlier the better. So, for example, we do a writing test and, say, if somebody has got dyslexia, we would give them additional time. We’ve had instances in the past where, if somebody hasn’t performed that well and we’ve declined them on the result of the test, and they tell us at that point. It’s like, ‘Well, we couldn’t really do anything about that and offer that if we weren’t aware.’ So, yes, I would say just whenever you feel it’s right, but I would say earlier the better, because it’s things like, yes, just stuff that we’d need to accommodate and the changes that we can make. And we will make those changes; it’s just knowing that we have to. So, yes, I wouldn’t be afraid of just saying it at all, because we do need to know.
I felt really awful, actually, and, similar to Stephanie’s point, I had a candidate who was really good for a job on paper and I really wanted to speak to him on the phone and they kept avoiding your phone call. I couldn’t understand why they were avoiding the phone call, because I thought they were great. Anyway, essentially, it happened that we were on the phone and it turns out that the person was deaf and the reason it taking so long to have this phone call is because they had to get another person who could hear on to the phone call, as well. So I would say something, they would translate, and then it would go back, and it was a really disjointed call because of that. If I had known, I would have met them in person. I could have done a video call or anything that would facilitate that a little bit better. So I felt awful. I felt very horrible about that, but I just didn’t know So, yes, the earlier is definitely the better.
Yes. Thanks, everyone. I think brilliant point from Steph. You don’t want to work with somebody who’s not going to make accommodations. So, yes, best to rule them out sooner rather than later, perhaps. I hope you found that useful, everybody. Thanks so much for your comments and your questions and a huge thank you to our panel for some really valuable insights and tips. Thanks again and have a lovely evening, everyone.
Thanks so much, everyone, thank you.
Thanks a lot. See you.
Cheers, guys, bye, have a good evening.
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