Rule 1 of Social Selling: Make Every Interaction Count

I’ve posted a couple of times recently on Social Selling, or more broadly, how Social Media helps your recruitment agency, or organisation in general; win new business.

I’m communicating a lot at the moment, about the rules of how Social Selling works best. Hopefully they are things that can most naturally apply to the recruitment agency world, and business as a whole.

The theme of this article, and the most simple rule, is:

Make Every Interaction Matter. 

If we are going to make Social Media work for us, we need to successfully and authentically feed a reputation driven environment. Social Selling is less about outbound sales, it’s about inbound marketing and driving word-of-mouth behaviours.

boy flowerThe only way anyone is going to recommend you, or your business – is by you leaving an impression that inspires people to want to do so. Every ‘candidate’, ‘client’ or contact – online or offline – written or spoken.

At CloudNine, it was a mantra of how we operated. We prioritised no-one, and placed equal importance on the newest graduate as we did any industry leader. Most importantly; we strived never to categorise ‘client’ or ‘candidate’ and treated both as the same. The avenues of ‘influence’ are often not dictated by a job title. 

I haven’t made a sales call for 10 years. This is because the measurement of whether we deserved work, was placed in the hands of the people we served. If they were to recommend us, then we were worthy. If they didn’t, then we would miss out.

90-100% of our business was recommendation or visibility driven – the big chunk of that, that was recommendation driven was because we treated people well. Here’s the key rules:

  • Be Nice. It takes nothing to be polite, amiable, generous and warm. People recommend people – but usually they recommend good people.
  • Be Interesting. Recruiters can be so boring sometimes, saving their personality for the pub, and letting their existence be personified & dictated by a serious of droning and onerous sales calls or job pitches. Have more layers to your business credibility – look like you mean it.
  • Be Knowledgable. It helps if you *understand* what your industry is talking about. Be on the pulse, be in the conversation, be revered for it and respected as a true industry component. Lead, don’t follow.
  • Be Generous. Sometimes recruitment can be contentious. Does the client deserve a fee? Did you go outside your terms? Are we going to court? – stop and think about it. Sit down with the client, and see if you can form a resolution. It’s an economic model, that sometimes you have to lose a little up front, to gain a lot. Sometimes making concessions open doors that build relationships – those heels get awfully worn down by constantly digging them in.
  • Be Advisors. I am constantly irked by recruiters who say “It’s not my job to give career advice”. Rubbish. For god sake, help the person who is sat in front of you, or on the phone. If you can’t help them with a job, then help them help themselves to get a job. That person with no experience that you helped onto the first rung, will sing your praises as they are working their way up the ladder.
  • Be A Mentor. This is something you don’t offer. It’s something you earn, by having the credibility and gravitas to be asked. Helping develop and empower raw talent into their careers and through each stage, whether it involves a fee or not, is valuable contribution to the ecosystem in which you serve. Never stop buying the coffees, providing the encouragement and support to those who ask it. These people chose you. You left your mark. You should be proud.

I have sat in recruitment companies that talk about maximising every moment. In this they mean steering clear of ‘time-wasters’. This is good advice. The bad execution of this advice, is misunderstanding what a time-waster is, and cutting off the wrong people.

The people we interacted with were our greatest sales people at CloudNine. And now, after 6 months of not being CloudNineI still get the inbound traffic. In the 30 minutes or so I have been writing this blog; my phone has 5 new notifications of people emailing or messaging me with something akin to “I hear you are the person to talk to about…”

On at least 6 occasions I have been presented with variations of the comment“You are nice bloke… for a recruiter”. In this social media driven world, that means a lot.

Nice guys do alright, you know. Try it.

Advice for Interviews: How To Do Brilliant Research

The second blog in my series on Interview Advice looks at how we should prepare for a job interview with the necessary research. 

It’s always good news you have the interview – probably the toughest part of the process is making your CV stand out sufficiently to be shortlisted as one of the lucky interviewees. But too many times I see potentially brilliant people muck up the next process, because they didn’t spend time doing the research. InterviewAdvice

So here’s some pointers on research, which will help you be much better in the interview:

RESEARCH THE COMPANY – You have to know this one, right? Everyone does this… surely? Sadly no. And it shows in interview. One of the first questions you will be asked in interview, is “So what do you know about our company?” – You need to know WHO they are, WHAT they do, and what makes them stand out in their field. So, read the website, get a good feel for the company and their direction.

WHY DO YOU WANT TO WORK FOR THEM? – You have to know WHY you want to work for them, and demonstrate an interest and enthusiasm in their products.

KNOW WHAT’S CURRENT  – Read their news on the website, Google the company for recent mentions, which may talk about awards, business deals, new board members, and product launches. Knowing this kind of stuff will give you more conversational confidence in the interview.

FOLLOW THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE – most companies will now have a LinkedIn page, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and very pertinently a YouTube profile. Make sure you follow them, and research the content of them. You will learn a lot about the personality of the business.

KNOW WHO IS INTERVIEWING YOU – You should do a little ‘stalking’ (in a good way!) on the people who are going to interview you. LinkedIn profiles, Twitter accounts, Google them and look at their career history to understand their own journey and perspective.

KNOW THE DRESS CODE – the dress-code thing is not so plain and easy any more. It used to be suit and tie for men and business dress for ladies – but now less companies dress in suit and ties – but then you don’t want to turn up in the t-shirt and jeans you painted your spare room in yesterday either (even if some people in creative agencies look like they go to work that way!!) Always check in advance with the recruiter or interview arranger, to make sure you get the tone right.

KNOW THE JOB ROLE – Make sure you read that job spec! Also, don’t be afraid to ask the recruiter; agency or in-house; some questions on what are the key components of the role, before the interview. You need to know this, to know how best to emphasis your experience to the content of the role.

PREPARE EXAMPLES – Be prepared with examples of when you have undertaken key components of the role. Read yesterday’s article for advice here.

KNOW WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT – do you have USPs? (unique selling points) Are there particular areas of skills you possess, which would make you particularly extraordinary for the role? Make them relevant and directly in tangent to the role, so for example – when we at CloudNine hired @LittleJessWood for a role with us, it became a distinct benefit to her application that she extended creative skills, website development and video editing etc. It meant she could do the role, sure – but also she could add value to us, because of her wider and relevant skill set.

WHAT QUESTIONS DO YOU HAVE? – eeek!! It’s that question, where we clam up – because we realise we didn’t prepare sufficient questions and we have to respond with the inevitable ‘well you seem to have covered everything’!! Spend some quality time preparing questions about the role, the company, the people, the aspirations of the company, the profile of successful people within the business, how the company is handling current business challenges, questions arising from content on the website, clarification of certain matters relating to the company from the website… *and breathe* – the Interviewer WANTS to know that you are keen and inquisitive, and not appearing disinterested and lazy, and selfish. Don’t ask questions about lunch-breaks, holiday entitlement, salary, coffee allowance, sick pay leave, etc – these are in some cases negative questions, and the more pertinent questions around the package can either be handled later in the interview process, or should be been ascertained before the interview.  The quality of questioning tells the interview a lot about you.

So there are a few things to work on in the whole area of research and planning. Good research & knowledge leading into the interview makes for a more confident individual with the interview. You need to feel like; when you walk into the building; you kind of have a feel for the place and what they do – and where you fit in – already. It’s so much practical planning, but it has a dramatic effect on your mindset.

Feel free to suggest other areas you have found useful for interview planning.


Advice for Interviews: Prove Your Competency For The Job

This week I will be presenting a series of 5 blogs providing some pertinent and useful advice on interviews. I hope you find them useful! Today I look at interview preparation for competency-based questions. 

InterviewAdviceI read a perfectly valid blog this morning from my friend Jorgen Sundberg – stating the ‘Only 5 Interview Questions You Need To Prepare For’ – and while all 5 are spot on, because all research is valid – I would add another.

There is a common method of interview content used both by HR professionals and Hiring Managers alike, called ‘Competency-Based Interviewing’ and is a form of questioning which requires you to provide an example of when you have undertaken specific key elements of the role. Sometimes they are hard skills, sometimes they are situational and soft skills. Either way, they could be the crucial difference between success and failure in an interview – because although you can dream up all the best areas you can add value, and your team-working skills – you are fundamentally going to be assessed on your capability for the job in hand.

So, the question you need to be prepared for – and there may be 3 or 4 of these in an interview – will go something along the lines of: “Give me an example when you encountered [insert work situation] before, and how did you deal with it?” – It’s a REALLY difficult question to answer without prior preparation, because you have to rack your brains into your career to find a specific example; which leaves an excruciating period of silence; and what if you don’t choose the right one?

So how do you prepare for this? Well here’s my tip:

The night before your interview, print off the job spec  – yes I mean print it off. Get your pen – yes I mean your pen – and next to each part of the duties and responsibilities scribble down 1 or 2 examples where you have done that specific thing before; from the high-powered, to the menial. Read it again in the morning, and again on the journey to the interview.

By writing the words down – there is a common theory that you retain information you write better than that which you type – and so you are better likely to have them stored in your mind when you reach the interview. When the questions come, they should in theory relate to components of the duties of the role – and you will be prepared with your best chosen examples because of the prior work you gave it.

It will rest your own mind at ease, and also help you perform better and more relevantly in interview.

Good luck!

Getting CV Advice – Leave it to the Professionals.

Getting a CV right is crucial. It is largely the key factor that either gets you the interview for a job application, or not. Sure there are other things, like social presence and external work – but crucially, 90% of hiring managers or recruitment professionals will use a CV as the basis of initial selection. Despite the the drone of the “CV is Dead” crowd…

You see, the problem with the “CV is Dead” crowd, is that they don’t recruit day by day, they don’t evaluate the success of the application process day by day, and they seem to have got stuck thinking all CVs look like they did in 1998. professionals

For that matter, so have ‘CV Experts’.

I see 50-100 CVs per day. Not dead then, but thoroughly thriving!! It’s easy to see the good ones from the bad ones, and we also see from our clients’ selection, where success is achieved. However the quality of the average CV remains poor. When I ask where the poor ones came from, the response has often been “I got it done by a CV advice expert”, and were fleeced £20-50 for the privilege!  How many CVs do you think the ‘CV Expert’ sees a day? Well, only the ones they are given to amend. And then they choose a dated format that looks the same as everything else they do for their unwitting clients. Not all CV experts are this bad, but sadly experience says mainly they are. Sorry.

There are better ways of getting good advice on CVs – and you are more likely to get good advice from a good recruiter or a portal that sees many, many in their operating system.

jobsiteInteresting to see, that leading job-board Jobsite; who are I guess a good example of that; are having a bit of fun around job-seeking and career advice, and have introduced ‘The Advantage’  which …. and offers as a brilliant little prize, a full scale Career & CV advice package as a prize! (including interview advice, and ‘interview wardrobe’ and an iPad no less!! – not bad!) Fortunately you won’t be getting career advice from Sir Alan Sugar – but these guys make it their business to know the recruitment market and factors for job-seeking success.

Here’s their video introducing it. If you are an active job-seeker it would be worth a go, right…?

So, don’t take chances with your choice of CV and Career advice – leave it with people who know what they are talking about, because it is their profession.

Here’s some resources from my Blog back-catalogue which will hopefully help, including some short videos I did for Jobsite last year:

#JobSeekerTips – 5 Tips For Making A Great CV 

#JobSeekerTips – Things Your CV Doesn’t Need To Say 

#JobSeekerTips – 5 TIps For Getting A Job In Social Media

CV Writing in the Web Age – Optimize Your CV! 

The Creative CV – Is It A Good Thing?

CloudNine’s Newest Recruit! – Ruthie Penfold

This week, CloudNine is thrilled to add to the team with hiring of Ruthie Penfold, into the role of Senior Consultant.

In setting out to find the ideal person to be a typical CloudNiner – I was as ever, extremely selective in my choices and decision. It has to work; CloudNine has a good reputation (I am told!) and so to maintain that in a new recruiter is a tough ask.
Ruthie has over 11 years experience in recruitment, in areas such as IT and HR – which is fabulous, but also, and crucially – she is a social media nut. Like us. Perfect.


She probably wanted the more `sensible` photo of her… but I this one represents the real Ruthie…!

She’ll bring an extension of great character to the CloudNine mix and matches our branding and personality brilliantly. It was exciting to gauge her excitement at CloudNine through the interview process, and like me she’s something of a ‘recruitment misfit’ – not typical of the wider breed of recruitment consultant.

How do we find someone like this? – well the story is great – an old school friend who I have not seen since I was 16 (you work out the maths as to how long that is!) and Facebook friend now; is a London based actor and artist, and dropped me a DM to say “hey, I have a great friend in recruitment, but also loves social media – you should meet”. So we did. The rest as they say, is history.
Social works, don’t you know…

So now with Ruthie joining this week, and Holly settling nicely and doing a great job of beefing and diversifying CloudNine’s social presence – the first small jigsaw in future CloudNine is complete. We hope we are able to add to the team later in the year, and I’m also about to embark on a campaign to recruit a Dutch specialist recruiter for the social media market over there. Yes it will be difficult again – but I’m all ears to ideas and propositions.

It’s been a great time for CloudNine, since the merger with the Angela Mortimer Group. Hiring Holly, of course – and now we have just kicked off our new #SocialCloud event series of  serious social media discussion and content. And hey – we grow and grow in our pursuit of being the best at recruiting Social Media & Digital Comms people – get in touch, as we’re getting even more equipped to get the best people.

Are We Hiring Social Media Quantity or Quality?

It was probably most highlighted to me recently by my own hire of Holly Hunt to run CloudNine’s social content and conversation, that sometimes, traditional rules of hiring do not always ring true in social media communications.

I’ve recruited for 19 years. I’m a stickler for meeting specific cultural and capability needs in selection – so most clients would agree a rarely waste a CV submission, rather than deliver 10 randoms – unless agreed with the client. The aim is always to absolutely reach and surpass the expectations of a new hire, or a new job. The thrill factor applies. This means finding nailed on experience – often at my advised rule of hiring at 80% capability.

do-not-obstruct-raw-talentHowever, I hire social media talent, and there is a thing about social media expertise. It doesn’t always come in a perfect CV shaped box. It’s a relative new phenomenon in career choices, and as an evolving art; more than that, a fast-evolving art; it is less easy to judge the true talent. Often the client expectations alter wildly from assignment tot assignment.

I will often be heard saying the words, “Look at the quality of the experience, rather than the quantity of the experience” – something again my clients will vouch for.

So an example with a client last year highlighted an interesting thing. They were recruiting an Account Exec, and a Senior Account Manager. A graduate plus 6 months role at c£20k, and a 2-3 years experience role at c£30k. The second stage interviews required a presentation – a really good practice in hiring social media people – see how good their research and presentation skills are, and you soon have a good idea of their grasp of commercial social media.
The results of the presentations was astounding. Delivering the same piece, the AE level candidates with minimal experience knocked the socks off the apparent ‘professionals’. There seemed to be a better natural understanding of the brief, a respect for budget, and most evidently a demonstration of creative instinct. The client nearly hired one of the AEs as an AM. She didn’t, but the promotion came within 6 months.

Other recent client examples demonstrated the same – often with my advice to consider raw talent. When he was a client in the UK,  Jon Holloway introduced to me to the phrase  ‘Digital Natives’ when he captured the calibre of the  ‘right’ person for his company – and it meant sometimes experience was usurped by natural ability.

Holly I’m sure won’t mind me saying this, but she didn’t really have a career before her role with CloudNine. She’s a great lifestyle/fashion blogger, a graduate in Journalism, and a part-time social media consultant. In comparison to some of the solidly experience options I could have chosen – largely from digital agency land – her instinct for my brand, my objectives, my market, my consumers and what solutions to present – were incredible. Her natural creativity made her irresistible from a hiring point of view; whereas some of the creative oomph had been burned out of some of the experienced options. Sad, but indicative. Holly possesses confidence in her skills as a content creator, where reticence existed in others.

So, in an age when graduates find it tougher to get on the career ladder, are we considering a search for the ‘Digital Native’, in your recruiting targets. I see many of them, I’m a passionate supporter of them – and believe we should be facilitating this natural talent rather than dismissing it. It won’t always be the best option at interview, and not always the person you hire – but if you find the genuine talent – you save money and creative budget in the meantime.

Our instinct in selection is to look at a CV and reject the shorter experience examples. I don’t think its that simple with social media talent. Sometimes the quality in 6 months employment is so potent, and the 2-3 years experience can be quite shallow. Not always, of course – but we have to recognise the difference. Recruiting social media talent is not simple, given the dynamic nature of the evolution of the industry, and the variance in `grades` of social media execution standards.

In no other area in these 19 years have I seen a more natural avenue of opportunity for graduates or early career people. Often with their own websites, their cultural tendency to social media active, the understanding of social media etiquette, and their position as social consumers – combined with a smart, relevant degree maybe.

Taking the plunge to hire the raw talent is the challenge. It might just be the perfect option. It needs considering, not dismissing.