Exchange Street
Exchange Street
Executive search and selection recruitment for the
financial services, IT, claims & insurance professions
0161 973 6900

FAQ, Help and Advice

Here are our most frequently asked questions.

When you buy a house you instruct a solicitor to carry out your searches. That’s one solicitor. One. You don’t email ten of them with “I need my searches doing. The first one to get back to me with them will get paid”.

But when it comes to recruitment this is the model that most businesses follow.

You know the routine. A brief bcc’d email (or if they really don’t like recruiters, a cc’d email) with a job description that contains lots of words but doesn’t say anything. Sometimes even a passive aggressive note at the end. One that suggests you’d better NOT ask any questions.

The company then sits back and waits for the results. Only paying the firm that found them their hire.

And it wouldn’t matter whether that firm was any good. Whether they pitched your company in the right way. Or whether they were ethical. The ends justify the means.

I get it. You think you are doing the right thing in spreading the net. But your approach can backfire.

It encourages speed over thoroughness

If it is about getting to the market before anyone else then a comprehensive job order goes out of the window. A proper pre-screen of candidates is the next thing to go. And you can forget about visiting the offices. But if a recruitment company does not ‘get you’, or the business, or the job, how can they promote it?

Candidates like to feel special

Hearing from five different recruiters about the same job feels a bit desperate. It would make you think there’s dozens of people under consideration. That it’s all a bit scattergun. What’s so special about any of that?

It makes recruiters give up

If there are lots of other recruiters on the case your typical recruiter will do a cursory search and see if anyone obvious comes up. And if it doesn’t they will shrug their shoulders and move on. Why map the market? Why go deep on the search? Why use LinkedIn if the chances of filling the role are so remote? And when that recruiter is only paid on results, can you really blame them?

But it doesn’t have to be like that. Which is where retained or exclusive search comes in.

The benefits are huge.

It gives you time to assess the recruitment firm that will represent your business

Hiring is difficult. You only get one chance to make a first impression so you need to get it right.

You don’t want that chance in the hands of someone who has no idea what they’re talking about. You don’t want someone that hasn’t spent time on the job order, challenging you where necessary. That doesn’t have the right marketing skills to attract candidates. After all, you’ve got to protect your brand.

If your recruiter knows they have a very high chance of filling the job you can be confident that they’ll focus on it

The recruiter will take a proper job order. They will get the time to visit the offices and understand your culture. They will build a picture of how to sell you to the market in the right way.

They’ll also have the time to map the market. Speak at length to candidates and compile a shortlist. Sending only the best CVs, not the best CVs they have when that email lands.

It will save you time

And time is money (and other such clichés). Giving the job to one agency over ten cuts down on the time needed to brief each one and deal with incoming CVs. Instead of filtering through ten average CVs to get two good ones, you get two good ones. There’s one person to speak to, build a relationship with. And if you’re like me, only one person’s name to remember. What’s not to like?

And it need not be forever. Most recruiters would be happy to have a week or two head start on the competition. But if you assess and pick the right recruitment company to work with from the outset you won’t regret it. Trust me (and you can always trust a recruiter who says that).

Us Brits don’t like talking about money. It’s so vulgar darling. And being direct? You can forget that too. Why ask or answer a question in a few words when we can flower it up? “If you don’t mind, would it be OK if I perhaps asked you a few questions relating to your very kind offer, if it’s convenient, at some point?”.
Dealing with offers can be uncomfortable. And negotiating money is unbearable for some. I know it is for me. Watching people negotiate on The Apprentice makes me cringe. And the thought of haggling in a souk, whilst the definition of exotic to some, would fill me with terror.

So I know your pain.

But like most things in life preparation is key.

Know your value

Research the market. Take advice. Speak to recruiters. Find out what your experience and qualification status is worth.

Wait

Let the company bring up money. It’s not expected that you will, so let them play their hand. After all the deeper into the process you go, the stronger your hand. The more the company wants you, the more they are willing to pay.

You don’t have to commit. You can provide a range. You can say like anyone looking for a new job you’d like an increase. But you’ll take everything into consideration.

Salary is one part of a package. So find out about bonuses, holidays and benefits. Extra holidays or private medical cover can be invaluable.

Will you have regular salary reviews? How are salaries reviewed? What will you need to do to secure a rise. Factor this in to your decision.

Work out what you need

That’s a very different thing to what you want of course. If I had a pound for every time a candidate made a (largely unfunny) quip about wanting ten grand a week when asked what salary they are looking for, I’d have about twenty pounds. But I digress.

What do you need for the specific job you are going for? That figure will not always be the same for every job. Some jobs you really, really want, and you’ll sacrifice finances to get it. If it’s a job you are ambivalent about, the figure may be higher to compensate. But know your worth and know the salary you need to give you a certain standard of living.

And now, I’m about to shock you. If you get offered a figure you are happy with for a job you want, take it. That’s right, take it. I know it’s fashionable to “hustle”. To knock back the first offer. But whilst that is the (very tiresome) way of doing things when buying a house, when it comes to job offers I don’t see the point.

Why harm the relationship for a grand or two, which after tax every month means less than £100? If you want it, it meets your needs and reflects market value, then jump at it.

After all, a lot of the best companies make their best offer. They don’t want to haggle. They are as uncomfortable about it as you. And why would you want to join a firm who thought they would try and get you for less than what you were worth?

But what about if you don’t get what you need? Or it doesn’t reflect market value? Or if your prospective boss thinks they’re Alan Sugar?

Keep professional

Arrogance in negotiation is not attractive. Being polite, fair and reasonable is. By now you know your worth. You know what you need. If the offer is below either of those figures explain that.

Justify why you are asking for what you are. There might be extra travel. You could be taking on a lot more responsibility. You may believe yourself to be underpaid. And whilst some countries have stopped candidates disclosing salary, the UK hasn’t. Firms will generally take your current salary into account. If you are underpaid and need a sizeable increment, justify this with fact.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

If both parties want it to happen then it usually will. Money is usually the easiest issue to overcome. But as you ask firms to respect you, respect them. They may be limitations about what they can pay. They may be a small business. Or a start-up. There most loyal and talented employee may be on £2,000 less than what you are asking for.

Good negotiation is often about compromise. Don’t lose the job you want by pushing too hard.

I know, I know. It’s flattering. It’s tempting. Hell, if they didn’t try and keep you you’d be pretty upset.

(Speaking of which I’ve resigned twice and didn’t get a counter-offer either time. What does that say about me?)

In your heart of hearts you know that accepting a counter offer is the wrong thing to do. But giving bad news to people is not easy (why do you think that some recruiters or firms never got back to you? Saying no isn’t as easy as it sounds).

And here you are. Sitting in front of Helen. She’s not that bad really. And she’s under pressure. And you leaving means a stack of work for John who has always helped you out. And then there’s Hemal. Your lunch buddy. What will she do?

Poor Hemal.

Before we go too far though tell me you’ve spoken to your current company before deciding to move on? Give them a chance to right any wrongs. The last thing you want when you resign is someone running after you in the corridor. Shouting “we can change, we can change. Don’t leave me!”.

If you’ve done that and things haven’t improved, then search away.

And you go on to find a company that offers you everything you want. They offer you and you feel great.

But then it hits you. You’ve got to break the bad news to Helen. Gulp.

To this point you’ve been rational. You have been cool, cold and calculating. But when it comes to resigning all those human emotions of loss, guilt and fear begin to build up. So it’s important to remember a few things.

Why do companies counter-offer their staff?

That extra few thousand pounds will come in handy. And the possible promotion sounds very tempting. But firms counter their staff because it’s the cheapest and easiest thing to do. Replacing you can cost thousands in recruitment fees, lost hours interviewing, training costs. And that’s even without the guarantee of success.

It’s also a matter of pride; losing a member of staff feels like a firm has lost control. That they can no longer offer the right environment for that individual. And that can have an impact on the rest of the team. Hemal has taken the news pretty badly to be fair.

Ask yourself. Why is the MD now on the phone to you when they’ve never spoken to you before? Why has it taken your resignation to get a pay rise? Or a personal development plan? The best businesses talk to you about these issues as a matter of course. They take an actual interest in, you know, making sure you’re happy.

It is also important to remember that far from advancing your career it can in fact hold you back. Think about it. Six months down the line and an opportunity for promotion comes up. It is between you, the person who was all set to leave, and John, the office stalwart, loyal to the core. Who stands the best chance? You’ve got it. Good old John.

The most important thing to do at this stage is remind yourself of why you took the decision to move on. After all, during a resignation your human emotions play havoc.

You decide that Helen (who let’s be honest, drives you mad) is alright. That the dysfunctional admin function are trying their best. That your new office doesn’t have as many parking spaces. And you’ll really miss Hemal.

In your weaker moments you convince yourself that staying put is the safe, risk free option. What once felt exciting and invigorating is now, quite frankly, terrifying. Humans don’t like change.

So before you resign think about why you took the decision to leave. Think about the chances you gave the company to change. And think about what you’re going to say to Helen. Rehearse it. The clearer you are in your own mind the more you know you’re doing the right thing.

Because sticking is often riskier than twisting.

And one final thing. Sure they’ll try and keep you. And sure they’ll miss you.

For a bit.

Then they, like you, will move on.

Andy Taylor
Director

Only a fraction of people are primarily motivated by money. And it may surprise you to know that salary is not one of the main considerations for when it comes to getting a new job.

But finances are important and when businesses don’t get it right they upset and then lose staff.

Why? Because it comes down to feeling valued. You could well earn more money elsewhere. But if you feel valued then you are unlikely to seek a move.

Some companies are great at making their staff feel valued. They have regular salary reviews. They find other ways to reward you. Those little touches that make you feel part of something. But some companies need some gentle encouragement.

Whilst us Brits hate talking about money it beats feeling undervalued. It’s a destructive emotion that only ends in bitterness. So be brave. Approach it right and you will either be successful or know exactly where you stand.

Why?

This is the first question you need to have a good answer to. Why do you deserve a pay rise? If you can’t justify it then your appeal is likely to fall on deaf ears. And you may damage your relationship with your boss. Get proof. Show them in figures why your performance justifies it. What improvements have you made? How have you contributed to the firm doing better? Make a logical, emotion free case and follow it up in writing.

What do you want?

You need to know what you are worth. Research the market and find out what other people at your level earn. But… make any request reasonable. Businesses are unlikely to move you from £30,000 to £40,000 no matter how good you are.

Approach it right

Do it in person at a good time. Book a slot in your manager’s diary but think about when they may be most receptive. Monday morning is not ideal. Thursdays or Fridays make more sense. People are in better moods and they have the weekend to collect their thoughts. But before you sit down with them prepare the ground. Tell them what you want to talk about.

Smile

Approach it like any negotiation. In a calm, concise manner backed up with facts. It may work, it may not. But keep a positive outlook both during and after. Don’t make ultimatums, don’t sulk, don’t make it awkward. Even if you decide to move on you will still have to work there for a period after the request.

Counter offer

If you like where you work give them the benefit of doubt before you make any decisions. If you have a problem, give them the chance to solve it. If they can’t or won’t then it makes your decision to move on easier. And prevents any counter offer shenanigans.

How to choose between job offers

A good friend of mine was recently offered two jobs; a lovely position to be in. Which it is. But, it also presented a major problem when on the face of it they were both similar positions with similar prospects. Which to choose?

Getting it right is important. But for my friend it was imperative. He had been made redundant on three occasions in the last 5 years and his CV was starting to look like an entry in the Yellow Pages under ‘Educational Sales’.

Andy, what should I do?

Remember the first conversation you had

When you start looking for a job someone in recruitment asks you that terribly recruitment question “what do you want to do next?”. What type of firm are you looking for, what size, what’s most important to you – money, status, work-life balance?

Fast forward two months and you are all set to take the big money offer. But what if you have forgotten that first conversation, when you said that money was important but not everything. When you said you didn’t want to work in a purely new business role, or that you’d sacrifice earnings to have a smaller patch so that you could see your kids more. Remember why you were looking and what it was that was most important to you.

Make a list

Simple yet effective. Write down a list of all the factors that are important to you and put them in order. For each offer write a for and against list and then compare and contrast.

If you say that the most important thing for you is longevity “(I really don’t want to be made redundant again”) then consider whether that start-up really is for you. If you hate micro-management but have that feeling that your boss, despite appearing to be nice, really would show you out of the door after one bad month, then do not join them. It doesn’t matter what they pay you, or how nice the business card looks, or that there’s a Pret a Manger around the corner. You are walking into a potential catastrophe.

As a general rule of thumb, culture, managerial style and working with people you like and trust should be at the top of your list. If you don’t enjoy where you work then earning bonus or getting promoted probably won’t happen.

Talk to someone you trust

Yes talk to the recruiters and yes talk to anyone you know that works in your sector. But they all have their biases. In a sense, they all know too much.

So talk to the people who know you best. People who can be brutally honest and who won’t worry about upsetting your feelings.

Ask your other half, or your mum, or your golf partner. People with no vested interest are often the ones that can cut through the noise and be most objective. “But you told me when you were drunk three weeks ago that you’d never work for a massive company again?” is the wakeup call that you might need.

Don’t assume

Don’t assume that big is best. That working for a big company means that you will have promotional opportunities or that your job will be safer.

Don’t assume that smaller companies are less prone to politics. Or that you will get an easier ride.

Think clearly and objectively about the task at hand. Will you be comfortable doing the job? Can you justify what they do and how they do it? Are you being realistic about your abilities?

Think, think and think again.

Recruitment & Transparency

The best companies usually have the best recruitment experiences. They usually don’t over-sell. They usually take as much interest in you and what questions you have than assuming recruitment is a one-way process. It isn’t. If anything, it is a much bigger decision for you than a company.

If they won’t tell you how specifically they measure success. Or how many of their consultants are earning bonus. If they shy away from letting you spend time with a potential peer, then ask yourself why.

The best businesses do everything in their power to showcase what they do as they are entirely confident that people will like what they see. They are also extremely comfortable in their own skin; they can deal with the fact that some candidates will turn them down. Not everyone is right for a company. You may as well find this out during the interview process then 6 months in.

Let’s just hope I got my advice right.

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