New Year, New Start!

Hands up who looks forward to January?  Hands up who doesn’t?  The start of a new year really does divide all of us into two camps: love or hate!  Whether you’re an optimistic or a pessimist, it’s certainly looking good for the UK economy in 2014!  Here’s what the experts are saying… 

The UK will be the West’s fastest growing economy at the beginning of 2014, according to a report.

The UK Business Confidence Monitor, put together by accountants Grant Thornton and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), hit +24 during the third quarter, the highest reading since Q2 2010.

It follows a preliminary report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which, based on 40% of the available data, suggests the UK economy grew by 0.8% in the three months to the end of September 2013.

“If our forecast is right, it will mean the UK is set to be the fastest growing economy in the western world going into 2014,” said Michael Izza, ICAEW chief executive.

“UK business confidence has now been rising for over a year, the longest sustained period since 2007. As significantly, there are some signs that the economic recovery is broadening to encompass business investments and exports.

“If this trend continues, the economy will have some strong foundations on which to build in 2014 and beyond.”

(Source International Business Times)

Here at Smart Moves, we’ve certainly seen an increase in recruitment requirements.  Bearing in mind it’s the first full week back after the Christmas/New Year holiday, the signs are very promising!

We believe that a lot of people have wanted to progress their career over the last 3 years’, but have been apprehensive to do so due to the precarious situation of the economy.   Now is certainly the time to ‘grab the bull by the horns’ and start thinking about the future and where you see yourself. 

Start by looking at where you are now and then set yourself your ultimate goal of where you want to be.  If these goals are one of the same, then congratulations, you’re in your ideal job!  However, if this is not the case, start mapping out the jobs you would need to secure in order to help you along your way.  This may also result in you returning to college or university in order to fulfil your dream, so enjoy the journey! 

If you start to get disillusioned with your job, then remember….

Either you run the day, or the day runs you!



The following report was published today by KPMG and the REC and is based on the UK Labour Market.  (It’s good news, for once, and makes interesting reading!)


  • Sharper increase in salaries as candidate availability deteriorates further. 
  • Strong growth of permanent and temporary appointments maintained.
  • Overall vacancies rise at sharpest rate in over six years.

Commenting on the latest survey results, Bernard Brown, Partner and Head of Business Services at KPMG, said:

“For those who have set government policy the latest figures are great news, with higher numbers of job opportunities emerging alongside the sharpest increase in permanent wages for six years, as demand continues to strengthen.

“Another question that must be addressed revolves around whether increasing salaries is enough to entice job hunters to move between organisations. All the evidence suggests not, with permanent and temporary staff availability falling in recent months.

The statistics within the recruitment industry continues to show a strong and healthy increase with both permanent and temporary placements during October.

With placements rising in October, the current period of expansion now extends to 13 months. Although easing slightly since September, the pace of expansion remains substantial.  Anecdotal evidence highlighted improved client confidence and faster decision-making. The strongest growth was recorded in the Midlands, while the slowest expansion was indicated in London.

Temporary and contract staff also increased for a sixth consecutive month in October. Although easing to the slowest since June, the rate of growth remained strong.

The Midlands continued to post the strongest temp jobs growth during the latest survey period, while the South registered the slowest rise.   Demand for staff increased further in October, with the rate of growth quickening to the fastest in over six years.

Public & private sector vacancies

Private sector vacancies continued to rise at a faster pace than public sector roles. In the private sector, permanent staff saw stronger demand growth than temporary/contract workers, while in the public sector the reverse was true.

Other vacancy indicators

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that job vacancies were up 12.5% on an annual basis in the three months to September.

Staff placements surge during July!

With all the talk in the news lately regarding unemployment being at its lowest for some time, coupled with the number of people in work increasing by 69,000 in three months to June (equates to 29.78 million in all; the highest level since records began in 1971), we certainly have something to shout! 

The recruitment industry has some interesting facts of its own:

  • Permanent staff appointments rise at fastest rate since    March 2010
  • Strongest increase in temp billings for 29 months
  • Vacancy growth accelerates to six-year high
  • Pay growth strengthens

Commenting on the latest survey results, Bernard Brown, Partner and Head of Business Services at KPMG, said:

“With house price and service sector figures moving in an upward direction, indications are that the economy is getting stronger. Confidence is certainly evident amongst employers; with many conserving cash for a number of years, they are beginning to invest in their people and, as the search for talent is stepped up, the jobs market is looking buoyant again.

“High levels of demand for staff were signalled across every sector analysed and the same can be said across each region of the UK. In a sign of the surge in confidence, the latest figures also represent the sharpest increase in permanent placements for more than 3 years and the biggest growth in demand for six.

This does, of course, mean that a gap exists between the demand for staff and the quality of candidates available, so the onus is on candidates to improve their skills and prove their capability.

“If the current trend continues employers will, however, be faced with another conundrum. For some time staff have sat tight refusing to move when job security was low.  Now the best staff will be looking for better offers so employers will need to strike a balance between recruiting new blood and retaining their best employees.”

Source: Markit, Oxon

How to explain a gap on your CV?

You’ve probably heard the saying that it’s easier to get a job when you have a job. Well, what if you don’t currently have a job? What if you haven’t had a job for a long period of time?

Don’t despair. It may take some extra effort to land a job after a long period of unemployment, but it is absolutely possible. Here are a couple of examples to help you:

Giving an explanation

First and foremost, it’s a mistake to hope that employers won’t notice that you are currently out of work. A gap in your CV is certain to raise a red flag. You need to address it directly.

Depending on the reason for your absence and your personal comfort level, you can either explain the gap at the relevant juncture on your CV or within a covering letter to a recruiter or a company when you apply for positions. Whatever you choose, always be honest and ensure that you emphasise a positive outcome moving forward.

Here’s an example if you stopped working due to redundancy:

I am a creative client-focused PR professional with extensive experience gained within the automotive industry. Since Excelsior Automotive relocated its offices to Scotland, I have been seeking a new opportunity to join a local progressive company.

Here’s an example if you have been out of work for some time:

I am a creative client-focused PR professional with extensive experience gained within the automotive industry.  Since being made redundant from Excelsior Automotive in November 2012, I have been working on a voluntary basis whilst actively seeking a permanent opportunity.

Source:  Modified  Linkedin article

These Days, Recruiters Are really worth the money

I saw this article recently and thought it was worth sharing with everyone, not just from a company’s point of view but also a candidate’s.  As an agency that is passionate about the service it delivers, and wholeheartedly still believe in interviewing face-to-face as opposed to CV selection from an advertising board, this was close to my heart.  

Source: Linkedin

When it comes to sourcing the right interview candidates, I’ve never been keen to use recruiters. But I recently changed my mind.

My company has an excellent candidate screening process, a super training program, and a very successful team of employees to show for it.

But hiring has always been a difficult task for me because each time I get ready to hire, it takes me forever to find the right type of candidates to even get the screening process started.

Despite the fact that I carefully consider where to advertise for candidates, I try to maximise the search and get a good mix of potential applicants.  It always takes me a long time to find people suited well to the company, and therefore, even worth interviewing.

I’ve tried everything from placing ads on large job boards like, to smaller specialised job boards to local university boards where I can post for free (or close to it). Each time, I experience the same slow crawl toward finally finding the right person. It has taken me up to five months to find the right kind of hire in the past. So in November when I decided I needed to think about hiring for the New Year, I was not optimistic.

For me, recruiters have traditionally been out of the question because I figured they would be a waste of time and never be as good at sending me the right people for the job as I would be in reviewing resumes myself. They’re also too expensive for my small budget. But as I got ready to place my job ads again, one of my senior staff members came to me and offered me the name of a recruiter she knew and thought could help. I was sceptical, but I called her anyway, figuring listening would cost me nothing.

The recruiter convinced me she would do a thorough job, but I still hesitated because of the price. I do not have large sums of money to devote to the hiring process, and by my calculations, when all was said and done, using the recruiter was going to cost me three times as much as my usual techniques. On the other hand, the recruiter would only charge me if she found someone I decided to hire, which meant I was risking nothing, and could always come back to my original methods. I bit the bullet and signed up, reminding myself “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

The recruiter sent me the resumes of 10 entry-level candidates. I screened six by phone, met three in person, and found the right hire, all in a month. The cost suddenly became much less, because I saved so much time in the process, and because I got a pool of applicants who were decidedly better to choose from than in the past. Even more interesting, perhaps, was an insight the right candidate shared with me during the interview process. When I asked why she had chosen to work with a recruiter rather than post on job boards, she said “because recruiters make sure your resume gets seen, while submitting via the Internet is like sending your resume into oblivion.”

If most people these days are thinking like my new hire, the recruiters will clearly have the best selection of candidates every time. Looks like I’ve got an essential new hiring strategy.

Can anonymous CVs help beat recruitment discrimination?

As the official MK Dons ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ supporters for 2012 – 2015 (check out our Facebook page which displays photos of parents and children from all over MK who supported the parade at the last home game of the season:, I noticed this article in The Guardian.  No doubt you’ll be as shocked as we were…

Apparently, there is growing anecdotal evidence that some UK firms are filtering out job candidates with foreign-sounding names.

It’s alleged that a well-known airline discriminated on the grounds of race when it rejected Liberian-born Max Kpakio’s job application allegedly because of his African name. A British citizen, with a degree in international relations, Kpakio was shocked that he was denied an interview for a job in a Swansea call centre. Suspicious that it could be due to his foreign-sounding name, he reapplied with a typically British name, Craig Owen, and was invited several times to attend an interview. “There was an enormous difference in the way I was treated when I used a British name,” he said.

There is reason to believe Kpakio’s experience is not unprecedented. In December, the all-party parliamentary group on race and community published a study showing that women who “whitened” or “anglicised” their names on job applications had to send half as many job applications before being asked for interview. With competition for jobs higher than ever during the extended recession, stories from applicants and recruiters suggest that prejudice and discrimination are still commonplace.

The behaviour is not just unethical, it is also a breach of equality legislation. However, it is clearly difficult for applicants to discover and prove they have been discriminated against. A more practical answer could be the introduction of anonymous CVs. The Runnymede Trust, which acts as a secretariat for the all-party parliamentary group, is calling on the government to publish an action plan to encourage blank-name application forms, and to lead by example by piloting their use in at least one of its departments.

Steps to introduce anonymous CVs have received mixed successes abroad. A plan for them to be made compulsory at all large French companies was abandoned after the Pôle Emploi – the French government agency that helps the unemployed find jobs – deemed them to be counter-productive. Research found that people of foreign origin and those who lived in underprivileged areas were less likely to be invited to an interview if their CV was anonymous, possibly because allowances could not be made for poor qualifications or faults due to disadvantaged backgrounds. Positive discrimination was impossible to implement. However, the City of Helsinki has recently begun a pilot scheme using anonymous CVs when recruiting staff. Officials from other Finnish cities have said they may follow Helsinki’s example. A German study last year found that anonymous applications helped level the playing field for job applicants.

The British government has taken some steps to tackle name-bias. In April 2012, deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, introduced the social mobility business compact, an initiative designed to make the process of getting a job fairer. Under the compact, some of the UK’s biggest companies including Tesco, BP and Barclays have agreed to “recruit openly and fairly ensuring non-discrimination, including increased use of name-blank and school-blank applications”.

A cabinet office press officer said: “The business compact asks businesses and other organisations to open their doors to people from all walks of life, regardless of their background.

“Its aim is to encourage behavioural change in business to open their opportunities to everyone regardless of, for example, where they are born, the school they go to and the jobs their parents do. This is because skills and talents shouldn’t be wasted just because someone’s personal circumstances mean they can’t get a foot on the ladder.”

However Runnymede Trust director Rob Berkeley said that as of December 2012, only 143 companies had signed up to the scheme “which is not a ringing endorsement or success for the government”. He added: “There is still a long way to go in achieving diversity across a number of large organisations in Britain.”

New job interview questions for a new generation

Posting comes from Sean Conrad of Halogen Software, a market leading talent management business…

As they say, “you only have one chance to make a great impression.” The saying holds true particularly when it comes to the job interview process. With the pressure to present yourself in the best possible light (in a very short time) nerves can easily take over, especially if you’re a member of the Millennial generation and have had little experience with the interview process.

It’s no secret that the best way to reduce the pre-interview stress is to be prepared. Take time to research the company with whom you’ll be interviewing. You should also try and anticipate with questions will be asked and then practice answering them.

While the Internet now enables us to carry out the research component of the process with ease, predicting the unknown, such as which interview questions will be asked, is quite another story. Gone are the days when we entered into an interview room prepared to answer classics, such as “Where do you see yourself in five years?

Rapidly evolving technology, uncertain economic times and changing workforce dynamics make it difficult for us to predict where we’ll be in six months, let alone in five years. Recruiting is no longer just about finding a candidate with the right skills to do the job; it’s about hiring for cultural fit.

If you are a twenty-something in the market for a job, do your research. Understand the hiring company’s business, its corporate culture and values and use that information as part of your interview preparation. Here are a few questions you might want to prep for before you put on your interview suit. In forming your responses, look for opportunities to align your skills, experience and interests with what you’ve learned about the hiring company.

Career aspirations
Instead of being asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” be prepared for more open-ended questions such as:

  1. What do you want to get out of this position?
  2. What skills would you like to learn?
  3. What are your career goals?

What you bring to the table
Potential employers will recognise that, although you don’t have a great deal of work experience, you do have valuable skills. They might focus on questions that draw out your skills, for example:

  1. What are your top three professional skills?
  2. Can you demonstrate why these are your top three?
  3. Can you provide examples of how you made positive difference at school or as a volunteer?

Your commitment level
Millennials are often labelled as individuals who lack commitment (We’re not saying that it’s true). As a result, you might be asked questions about past project experience, for example:

  1. What types of projects have you worked on?
  2. Can you give me an example of project you worked on where you exceeded expectations?
  3. What were the results and what was your role in achieving them?

Personal traits
Potential employers look at more than skills. They also look at personality traits to match the role they are trying to fill. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked questions that are work related to draw out your passions, preferences and weaknesses:

  1. What do you do in your free time?
  2. Do you belong to any social, community or volunteer groups?
  3. What is/was your role in this group?
  4. How did you contribute to the success of a project?
  5. Can you an example of time you had deal with conflict — and how you handled it?

Of course, the type and number of questions will vary depending on the interviewer. One final piece of advice — be prepared for one or more non-related or odd ball questions. Interviewers might want to test your critical thinking skills and ability to think quickly. Some real-world examples include, “What song describes your work ethic” (asked at Dell) and “On a scale from one to ten, rate me as an interviewer.” (asked at Kraft Foods).

If you are faced with one of these bizarre questions, not to worry, take a moment to think about it and how your answer could relate to the position for which you’re interviewing.

Sean Conrad is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software. He writes regularly about talent management trends and best-practices for the Halogen Software Exploring Talent Management blog.

Temps leading the way despite economic uncertainty

Continuing fragility in the UK economy has resulted in employers increasing their long-term demand for flexible staffing whilst downgrading their plans to increase their permanent workforce in the medium and the long-term, according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s latest employers’ survey, JobsOutlook.

A total of 67 per cent of employers surveyed say they have short-term plans to increase their permanent workforce over the next three months, compared to 74 per cent last month. With regards to longer prospects, 49 per cent of employers expect to expand their permanent hires over the next twelve months which compares to 66 per cent last month.

A further 42 per cent expected staffing level to remain the same which indicates that 91 per cent of employers expect to maintain or increase their permanent workforce over the coming year.

Employers’ long-term demand for temporary staff has risen with 83 per cent of employers saying their use of agency workers will either grow or stay the same during the next 12 months. For the short-term, 79 per cent surveyed foresaw either taking on extra agency staff or keeping current levels static.

The overall number of temporary workers in the UK is at an all-time high at 1.6 million, giving employers increasing options to flex their workforce while the current economic conditions prevail.

The impact of the public sector cuts on private sector jobs remains a concern. A total of 20 per cent of private sector employers now say they will have either a quite serious or serious impact on them. This is in addition to the direct impact of cuts on jobs in public the public sector where 66 per cent of employers believe the impact on them will be quite serious or very serious.

Commenting on the current data, Roger Tweedy, the REC’s Director of Research said:

“The fact that employers have reviewed their permanent hiring intentions this month is clearly a reflection of the uncertain economic context. However, overall confidence remains at the same level as this time last year and it is interesting to note that the number of employers planning to maintain or increase their permanent workforce over the coming 12 months still stands at over 90 per cent.

“With the economy continuing to stagnate, businesses will understandably remain cautious which is why we are seen an increase in the longer term demand for flexible staff such as temporary and contract workers. This is a timely reminder of how a flexible workforce to help employers meet peaks and troughs in demand for services and products during uncertain times.”

JobsOutlook is based on a monthly survey of employers with results based on a sample of 600 on a three month rolling basis.

Unemployment rate falls by 4.2%!

Unemployment figures for our region fell by 9,000 in the three months to January, official figures revealed recently.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that a total of 207,000 people were unemployed in the region between November and January.

The region’s unemployment rate was 6.6% and saw a fall of 4.2% during the period. The worst area in the UK was the North East which recorded a 3,000 increase in the number of people without a job.

The jobless total jumped by 7,000 to 2.52 million, ending a run of reductions, with all the increase caused by more 18 to 24-year-olds becoming unemployed.

Milton Keynes

Interestingly, the number of people claiming jobseekers allowance in Milton Keynes rose by 514 claimants to a rate of 3.6% between January and February 2013. This compares to a rate of 4.1% in February 2012. The MK unemployment rate is higher than the South East rate of 2.6%, and lower than the United Kingdom rate of 3.9%.

MK February 2013:

  • Male: 3,862
  • Female: 2,127
  • Total: 5,989 (3.6%)

Statistics are invaluable but they can also muddy the waters somewhat.   When you bear in mind that Milton Keynes’ workforce population is 148,670 the amount of people unemployed is minimal.

With companies like Red Bull Racing, Network Rail, the ICAEW, Volkswagen and Mercedes all basing their Head Offices here, it’s no wonder that over 80% of employees in MK love their job!

Visualise your goals by Pip Thomas

People often struggle with the concept of visualising their goals, outcomes and success. ”Does it really make a difference?” I often get asked. Well, the simple answer is yes! Swiftly followed with a ”have you ever given it a go?” …

Taking some time out and really visualising your successes moves you closer and closer to it!

Many successful business people, sportsmen and women and actors visualise their desired outcomes on a regular basis, mentally rehearsing the steps they will go through and creatively visualising the end result. This may be before a performance or an important meeting. Visualisations can be used as part of the preparation process. Or, if you wish to reach your peak performance by remembering previous successes and wins, to further enhance the strength of the image in your mind, visualising your success has a place in determining your success.

Muhammad Ali famously once said “champions aren’t made in gyms, champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream a vision.” How true!
Research supports the power of visualisations as they enhance creative thinking and physical practice as the brain cannot tell the difference between reality and imagined experiences. The key is to ensure you introduce all the senses – see, hear, feel, smell and taste it! Spending time thinking about positive outcomes full of upbeat thoughts and your brain will start to develop its own positive upbeat neural pathways. The end result is that you will believe that they have already happened.

By the way, if you think you cannot visualise then close your eyes and think about your kitchen at home. What colour are the tiles, where is the cooker, what aromas where there the last time you were in the kitchen? Um, so now tell you cannot visualise!

So how do you do it?
1.    Write down what it is you are looking to achieve; keep it short as bullet points will work. This is an important stage as it keeps you on track. What will you hear, see, taste, smell and – most importantly – feel when you have achieved your goal?
2.    Relax your mind and body as you will take on board more information at an unconscious level in this state. When you are clear about your goal, close your eyes and breath deeply to calm your senses.
3.    Now with your eyes still shut, see yourself in your goal/vision. Notice who else is there and whereabouts you are. Really take on board the detail; are you acting differently as you achieve your goal? We are starting the process right now and with practice the goal will become closer.
4.    Really start to bring your vision to life. What are you hearing and from whom and where? What smells are there around you? What tastes do you experience and most of all, what is the feeling you have? Really focus on turning that feeling up and as you do, you will really experience that true feeling of achievement and success. You can carry this visualisation round with you like a photo, referring to it when you wish.
5.    Lastly, recognise the outcome of success and congratulate yourself! Laugh out loud, smile and share the experience with friends. In my model of the world, I would be cracking open the champagne!

Repeating these steps for 5 or 10 mins a day will really help bring your success closer and closer to you.