Tag Archives: How I Work

How Far IS a Reasonable Commute?

How Far IS a Reasonable Commute? or Why Couldn’t Joe Just Check The Map?

How Far IS a Reasonable Commute

How far you commute to work can often depend on a number of factors. The short answer is it’s how far YOU deem to be a reasonable daily commute.

Where are the jobs? How much do they pay? Can you afford to get there? Above all it’s up to you but sometimes an experienced Recruitment Consultant can have a role to play.

This is how I started taking more interest in asking just that question (develops quizzical look, stares up at the ceiling and thinks back to a specific point in time).

I had a client in the town of Poole in Dorset that were leaders in the design and manufacture of specialist industrial machinery.

These machines were used in the manufacturing process of sectors like automotive, petrochemical, and food and were actually an impressive part of the production method.

The company had asked me to find a contract engineer to carry out a professional role in the offices, from memory it was something like a production engineer or production-planning engineer, I can’t remember now.

I duly searched and found someone (we’ll call him Joe) that met all of the criteria given to me by the client and “Joe” at the time was very keen on the role.

Being out of work he was looking for an opportunity that would ensure continued employment and this was something that he wanted to, in his words, “go and have a look at”.

I didn’t focus on the fact, or even bother about, how he would get there, or even how long it would take.

In retrospect, and when I thought about it, I suppose I should have been a bit concerned that this particular candidate as he lived in Andover.

Note: Just to set the scene this was BEFORE Sat Navs, Google Maps, and Mobile Phones, but AFTER Road Atlases.

I told Joe about the role, I told him where the work was; the company, the rates etc. and he said he was interested. Who was I to judge? (I now have a very firm opinion on who I am to judge.)

On the day of the interview I was busy resourcing for a large contract we had but I’d checked the night before and Joe said “everything was OK” he knew where and when his interview was scheduled for and, “he’d be fine”.

I called the client later on that afternoon to get feedback on Joes meeting with him.

Things hadn’t gone well.

It seems that Joe had experienced a particularly difficult journey. He’d had some trouble finding the place. It’d taken a lot longer than he’d expected. And he was more than flustered when he arrived in reception.

Joe was pretty fed up. Joe was so fed up that he announced (loudly) to anyone who cared to listen and was in earshot that there was “no way I’m going to do that F****ng Journey every day”. I’m told that this was followed by some kind of look for acceptance on that statement by anyone who he could make eye contact with.

Sadly, my client at the time happened to be showing out some potential customers. He was right at the handshake, “goodbye”, and “thanks for coming” stage of a very successful visit.

Understandably he was not impressed.

As a client I’d dealt with him for a long time.

He prided himself on his “straight talking approach” and was always very efficient to get to the point, albeit in an often brutal manner.

Paul (as that was his name) carried out a brief interview in reception, and suggested that if this was how Joe felt then it would be a waste of both their times to carry on the discussion any further, or words to that effect.

Afterwards we spoke, and Paul proudly used some more of his straight talking approach to explain his dissatisfaction.

Asking questions about the distance a potential candidate would consider to be a reasonable daily commute, or historically how far they’ve travelled to work, are often now a regular feature of my interviewing process.

My Advice

If you’re trying to work out what a reasonable daily commute is, have a look at something like Google Maps to establish your route and the traffic you’re likely to encounter (if you use Google’s Street View you could practically drive the route from the comfort of your own home). If it’s practical make a trial run at the times you would need to travel to arrive in good time.

If you’re going to use public transport, research your options and take into account any walking to or from train stations or bus stops, as well as the fares you’ll need to pay.

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How Not To Pitch For A Job

How Not To Pitch For A Job or How One Job Applicant Got It So Wrong

How Not To Pitch For A Job

How Not To Pitch For A Job

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and this is true in my profession as well.

I speak to hundreds of candidates every month and as soon as the conversation begins, I’m working out which one of the roles and companies I deal with you’re going to suit best.

The Wrong Way

“It’s not that I want to do it, it’s that I can do it.”

This is what the applicant on the phone was telling me.

He’d applied for a job that he was more than capable of doing, but as he’d just said “he didn’t really want to do it”.

This wasn’t doing it for me!

I’d started the conversation by asking about his current job, but he didn’t want to have that conversation.

“I know who the company is, they’re just down the road from me.”

I tried to get the conversation back on track by asking him why he’d applied for the position, but to be honest I had a lot of work to do to get excited about him as a candidate now.

It turned out he was unhappy with the insecurity in his current role and these are his words not mine, the “impending demise of the business”.

Again I wished he’d let me carry out the telephone interview in the right way, but he was keen to explain to me why he “wanted to be put forward” and everything wrong with his current employer.

I would have got to this, as part of my interviewing process, and you’ll have to take my word for it, it would have been more constructive if he’d let me.

I started to speed the conversation along.

I wanted to help him, but the reality was that his CV didn’t show half of the experience specified in the job description that he was telling me he had, and I suggested he revise his CV and we’d talk again the following day.

Why You Need To Do It

The candidates that I have the most success in placing are the ones I know the most about.

When I put you forward for a role, I’ll highlight all of the reasons why you meet the expectations of the job.

Why you may be a good match for the company.

What you’re looking for on a professional, and sometimes an emotional level, and how that matches the role on offer.

When I’m discussing your application with my client I’ll be able to answer all of their questions and give an honest appraisal of you as good fit for the role (or not as the case may be).

The client hasn’t spoken to you, so they won’t know anything about you, but if we’ve had an open and frank conversation then I’ll know.

I’ll also know more about my client than you will.

I’ve been talking to them, getting to know them, learning what makes a good fit for their organisation.

Sometimes I’ve found out by trial and error, and sometimes I’ve found out because they took the time to explain it to me.

The eventual benefit to both you and the client should be that I match the right people with the right jobs and the right companies.

The Right Way

“Tell me why you left your last job?”

I was part the way through the interviewing process but this was the point were I really started to feel the match with the clients brief was a good one.

“I like to get out onto the Shopfloor.”

“I like to interact with the engineers working for me and understand what the issues are. That way I think I do a better job.”

“I seem to spend so much time preparing for meetings, reporting against KPIs, and fire fighting, that I very rarely get a chance to implement any real changes.”

He went on to explain “there was always pressure to get the product out the door, without any real concern about quality, or putting systems in place that meant we could the job in a proper organised manner the next time it was needed”

I asked about the kind of company he would be interested in working for, the kind of environment he thought he would do best in and he went onto explain what he felt that would be.

As we discussed the job further, he offered more examples that weren’t included on his CV (you can’t include everything am I right?) that made him an even better fit for the job.

I was absolutely confident he was what the company were looking for, and after 2 interviews they agreed with me by offering a salary at the higher end of the pay scale.


If you find a good Recruiter that’s interested in placing you in the right role, then if you want my advice, work with them.

Let them do their job, answer their questions, provide them with information that you think will help them, and above all trust them.

If you find a bad Recruiter?…..Run

What’s your opinion?

Has spending time talking to a Recruiter helped you find the right role or have you had to do most of the work yourself?

I’d be interested in your thoughts in the comment box below.

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CV Advice For Ex Forces

CV Advice for Ex Forces

CV Advice for Ex Forces 

I was once told that all ex service personnel leaving the armed forces were given exactly the same information in how to structure a Resume.

Personally I don’t believe there is a one size fits all, cookie cutter solution for writing a CV.

Based on the wide variety of experiences you have, I think that’s especially the case when it comes to ex forces personnel.

Why would you want a CV to look like every other person that’s in the same position as you are?

No – you need to give yourself a competitive edge and show your unique skills.

Here are 8 changes I would make straight away to improve your chances of getting that interview.

1. Soft Skills – Forget them.

CVs are littered with phrases like

“Work well under pressure”

“Self-motivated and high level of integrity”

“Excellent communication skills”

“Results and quality-oriented working habits to aim towards company goals”

“Excellent man management skills”

Filling out a CV in bullet points with these “unique skills” just under the name and address section is in my opinion (and other Recruiters I know) a waste of time, and to be honest I generally skip right past it to go to the part I’m really interested in.

Far better to change them for something more technical like

  • Re-wired the Comms Systems on Apache Helicopters, or
  • Upgraded emergency Diesel generators on XYZ Aircraft Carrier, or
  • Diagnosed Faults down to sub system level on Tornado Aircraft

These are tangible things that give me a point of reference and help me to make the leap to see how you may able to do the job that I’m looking for people for

2. Qualifications – List them somewhere near the top.

Start with the highest and work backwards.

  • ONC or HNC in Subject 2
  • NVQ 3 in Subject 3
  • Modern Apprenticeship as etc

And so on

Then move on to the specialist courses again, the most valuable at the top, working down.

  • Slinging Course
  • Rigging course
  • First Aid Course
  • 100 metres Swimming Certificate

You get the idea?

While I’m covering qualifications, I would highly recommend that you ensure that you posses anything that is listed on your CV.

I can’t claim that you have a NVQ 3 in Engineering if I haven’t seen it, and often a company will need copies for their records.

As a footnote it can cost currently up to £44.00 to search for a replacement City & Guilds certificate. This can take 3 weeks or more and and the fee is non refundable even if they can’t find it.

3. Reverse Chronological Order – List the most recent job you did first.

This is the first part of CV I’m going to look at.

Give an overview of the positions you’ve held, and the jobs you’ve done, focussing on the technical details.

This is the area that normally gives me the most information so this is where

“Re-wired the Comms Systems for the Apache Helicopter,” or

“Upgraded emergency Diesel generators on XYZ Aircraft Carrier,” or

“Diagnosed Faults down to sub system level on Tornado Aircraft” needs to be.

This is the first place I will look to establish if you may be suitable for the role I have.

The second third and fourth places I’ll look will be the jobs previous to that.

Bullet any achievements, like

  • “supervised team of 12 fitters” or
  • “repaired and turned around Merlin EH101 Avionics within 24 hours”

and then move onto the next.

4. Show Me The Relevant Experience

Whatever job you’re applying for, your CV needs to show the relevant experience, using technical keywords.

So if you’re applying for an Electrical Fitting job, focus on that experience on your CV.

Facilities Maintenance? Talk about your experience in this area.

Ex forces personnel often do more than one job, so tailor your CV to show the work you’ve done that gives you the direct experience for the position you’re applying for.

5. Tell Me Where You’ve Been

A lot of the people I deal with are ex-services also.

If I could tell them where you served, the Rank you held etc we both know they’ve probably got a lot of the information to help them make a decision on your suitability.

6. Tell Me More

Here is a typical extract from a CV

Engineering Technician (Weapon Engineer) – 2007 – November 2013

A varied role, adapting to the needs of the Forces. Not only working on ships, also land based. In this time, experience has been gained in fields such as driving, management and administration.

6 Years’ experience of probably the most varied work on earth and it’s summed up in a couple of sentences.

Now I KNOW there is more this person can add.

I can only begin to guess the type of work done, the tools used, and the achievements gained and the reality is, I DO HAVE TO GUESS.

I now have a choice to either pick up the phone and have the conversation, or move on to the next one.

It’s also on my mind that when it comes to the interview and this person is asked “tell me about your last job” that this is an example of the answer that they’ll give.

7. Know What You Want To Do 

For me this is probably one of the most important points.

Coming from the services you are likely to have a wide and varied range of practical skills.

Knowing the kind of role you want and then focussing on, and promoting those skills in detail is for me the best thing you can do.

Let’s say you’re looking for a Hands on Electrical Fitting or a Maintenance Role.

There’s less point talking about your management skills, your Health and Safety skills, your Quality Auditing skills, or anything else that’s not related to the job you’re aiming for.

The space you free up by taking out the irrelevant stuff can be filled up with the technical stuff we talked about earlier ☺.

8. Know Where You Want To Do It

Once I’ve got your CV and I believe you may be suitable, I’m going to ask

  • Where do you want to work? How far would you want to commute on a daily basis, would you relocate or work away from home?
  • What jobs do you want to do?
  • How much do you need to be paid?
  • When are you available to start work or how much notice do you need to give?
  • Are you interested in Permanent Jobs, Contract Jobs, or Temp to Perm Jobs or all 3?

I’ll need to know this as a bare minimum.

Questions, Comments or Thoughts? Leave a Reply in the box below.

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Why I Asked You About Your Last Job

Why Did You Leave?

Why I asked you about your last job

When we talk for the first time, I’m keen to make sure I really understand how I can help you.

Some of the questions I ask may not make sense at first, but bear with me and I’ll tell you why I ask them.

“What is your current job and what does it involve?”

For most people the CV is supposed to answer this question.

In fact sometimes when I ask a candidate “tell me about the job you’re doing at the moment” the reaction can be “well haven’t you read my CV?”

To a large degree I understand that response.

Most of the time I have read the CV, but I haven’t studied it.

I’ve seen enough to know that you’re worth talking to and now…I want to talk to you.

Maybe not everything is covered.

You’ll probably tell me more than is contained in your CV.

I’ll ask you questions and you’ll give me more information. And then I’ll ask you more questions and, well you get the idea…..

You’ll tell me what you like and what you don’t like.

If I’m going to find the right role for you, I need to know why you want to leave this one.

In my experience people don’t often leave a job because they “fancy a change” or even just for the money.

There is generally an underlying reason.

If it wasn’t your idea to leave I’m naturally curious about the circumstances surrounding that.

Were you made redundant as a result of cutbacks? Did you kidnap the MDs wife and set fire to the building? You may laugh, but I’m expected to know if you’re an axe wielding homicidal maniac hell bent on finding your next victim, (or a highly mobile professional ready for your next challenge).

You may in your explanation give me so much more information, often making you suitable for other roles I’ve had, and companies I’ve dealt with.

You’ll tell me about the company.

I probably know a bit about them, but not as much as you do.

What you tell me will also help me know if the environment you’re in, is one you enjoy.

If I ever work with that company, and consider placing someone else there, it will help me work out if that’s the right environment for them.

So when you’re asked about your current role, I know it can be frustrating, especially if it’s not the first time of answering it, but for my part – I want to make sure I use this opportunity to find the best company for you.

As a bonus I’ll also get an idea, how you’ll answer that question if/when I get you to interview stage.

I’ll give you a real life example of how this helped me.

I spoke to an Electrical Engineer that was ex-military (ex RAF from memory).

He’d recently started a job as a Field Service Engineer, for a Generator company.

When I asked him about the job he was doing he went into detail about it.

We talked in depth about the High Voltage testing he did, the Voltages he tested up to, the Test equipment he used.

Everything he said and the qualifications he had talked about passing, made me confident he knew about his subject.

When I asked him about the downsides of his current role, while he was relatively happy with the work content, he was unhappy with the lack of structure and career prospects, and that the company wouldn’t invest in training for him when there was a commercial benefit to them doing so.

He said that his manager wasn’t consistent, and that he had no reason to believe there was a career path available to him.

He was frustrated that the company didn’t seem to have a vision or a plan going forward, every day was reacting and fire fighting, and there was no reason he could see this would change.

I asked him if he’d spoken to his manager about this, he said he had and this was where the inconsistency came in.

His manager had talked about resolving these issues, but not only did he not resolve them, but often made decisions that made things worse.

The role I had in mind for him was a high voltage testing role, so the conversation about his test experience that wasn’t covered in his CV, gave me extra information that not only helped me believe he had the right technical experience, but I could also hear that he enjoyed that part of the job.

The company I was recruiting for was a bigger organisation. They had structure, processes, and procedures in spades. They invested in their staff to improve their skills to the benefit of the business. They also had a career path that went right to the top. I was confident that this would be the place for him, and this was an opinion I passed onto the hiring manager.

Long story short he was interviewed, offered, and he started, and is still there now.

Last time I heard from him he said the job was going well and he was happy there.

Thoughts or comments about this?

Add a reply below.

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