Moving jobs? How to prevent feeling pressurised to accept an offer

Let’s face it: No one wants to feel rushed or forced when making any decision so why should this happen when choosing a job that you’ll be committing to for the foreseeable future?!

But unfortunately, you’re probably one of many reading this blog because this happens far too often.

Most recently, I was working with a candidate who was looking for the perfect Senior Category position. Now, she was very transparent throughout the process, telling potential future employers that she was in the process with other organisations. The first had offered her a role, but she was also in the final stages with the other two businesses.

Instead of rewarding her transparency (and let’s be honest, assessing your options properly is critical to any candidate considering a move!) they gave her an ultimatum saying she had till 5 o’clock on Friday to make a decision!

A lot of it comes down to the agency you’re dealing with so, if you want to avoid feeling pressurised to accept an offer, here are my top tips and warning signs to look out for to ensure you make the right decision.

The 3 alarm bells when dealing with a recruiter:

  1. An Ultimatum
    Understandably you can’t take a month to decide whether or not to accept an offer, but if you are being pushed with an unfair deadline with no justifiable reason then this is a clear alarm bell.
  2. The brief changes
    Another warning sign is if suddenly, the message changes e.g. You’ve been told from the beginning that you’re looking after Sainsbury’s then without much explanation your main focus will be Iceland. Things do change within businesses, but it is important to understand why the role of responsibilities has changed.
  3. They don’t know you
    I’m not talking about your favourite colour, I mean your aspirations, motivators and drivers. If they know this, then they’re way more likely to match you to the perfect company.


The 6 positive signs:

  1. The recruiter knows the process from the start to finish
    A good recruiter should be able to map out the whole interview process at the first call. e.g. if they know from the beginning that it’s a 3-stage process with a verbal reasoning test in the middle.
  2. They’ve worked with the company previously
    If the recruiter has worked with the hiring manager or the talent acquisition team previously it not only shows that they are trusted but it also shows that they’ve proven that they’ve successfully placed a good candidate in the past that fits with the company culture. This is super important for you because beyond role and pay, you want to know that your recruiter gets you and will align you with a complimentary company culture.
  3. They’re the companies preferred recruiter
    This may be the best sign of them all. It conveys that your recruiter is not only competent and valued but also speaks volumes that the client is willing to cut all cords with any other recruiter.
  4. They won’t budge until they meet you
    Who can truly understand you and your long-term goals in a 5-10-minute phone conversation? I seriously doubt even your parents can! So, if a recruiter endeavours to meet you because they see the value in talking with a clear headspace and looking at your career development holistically then guess what?! They are a keeper!(Related: See what exciting Commercial Strategy / MS&P, Category / Insight & Commercial Sales opportunities we have at Vertical Advantage now)
  5. Presentation preparation
    Now I don’t mean they literally prepare the whole thing; I mean they’re instrumental to your presentation being successful. They guide you; they tell you what to include, they’re honest about the length and help you be as concise as possible.P.S. Here’s a general rule of thumb if you’re wondering:

    • Don’t be too fluffy
    • Be concise
    • Convey what a good outcome looks
    • Always include initial priorities and longer-term goals and smart objectives
    • Encourage you to know your product e.g. store visits, topical insight
    • Makes sure you know what’s relevant in the category and who the competitors are

    In my opinion, the best recruiters are the most knowledgeable. In fact, they’re so well informed they might even sound like they could do that job themselves!

  6. Really honest feedback
    No one is perfect. That’s why the best recruiter will not tell you what you want to hear. Instead, they will give you constructive feedback as well as help you with developmental areas.


Being aware of all these points will ensure your recruiter understands your aspirations, motivators and drivers meaning that will get you the perfect job so you aren’t left questioning it all and feel pressured to make that final decision.


If the role is perfect, location is ideal, packages are in line with your expectations and you like the brand or product – why are you still questioning it?!

Ask yourself honestly: why are you hesitating?!

It’s probably because you don’t want the role, it is better to be honest and not leave companies wondering. You never know where you will come across that hiring manager again.

Accepting offers can sometimes be trickier than the interview process, that’s why it’s always so important to meet your recruiter face to face so they understand your needs and create a bespoke plan for you. If you don’t put the time in at the beginning to express your wants and needs, then it’s no surprise that it can likely crumble when you get to the finish line.

I hope this article has helped you navigate better in what can be an uncomfortable situation and helped you feel a little bit more in control. If you want to discuss further career opportunities, some top tricks I’ve learnt along the way or maybe you’re just after some career advise then please drop me an email on, alternatively, you can reach me on 0207 438 1565. I’m all ears.


In 5 Minutes, I’ll Give You the Truth About Hiring Someone From An Agency Background

There’s an age-old debate in the marketing world, one which has been pro-ed and con-ed to death in recent years. It goes a little like this:

“Should we bring onboard an experienced in-house marketer or try something new and hire someone with an agency background?”

There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to each, of course. The former will be familiar with traditional in-house business model strategies, while the latter may be able to bring a fresh perspective.

Yet for all the potential advantages that hiring someone with an agency background brings, many clients remain reluctant to consider them for in-house positions.


As an advocate of hiring marketing execs with an agency background, let me dispel some of the most persistent myths and, while I’m at it, explain why people with agency experience might be exactly what your company and clients need.

They’re often talented multitaskers
One of the biggest misconceptions about former-agency hires is that they’ll shrivel up with boredom after two days on the job in-house.

I mean, why wouldn’t they? Aren’t they used to working on a variety of projects at once?

Of course, they are.

But that doesn’t mean that working on one project will automatically equal boredom.

They might, like most people, just want a change of pace. Or maybe they prefer the idea of focusing on and dedicating themselves to one brand after honing their talents in a fast-paced agency.

Besides, working in-house doesn’t mean your job narrows its focus that much. From experience, you still have to handle lots of things at once, so it’s not like former-agency hires are going from all to nothing by working in-house.

In fact, their fingers-in-many-pies, multi-tasking past will work in your company’s favour, as they’ll likely be highly efficient and capable of tackling all those things at once!

This is especially valuable if your marketing team is on the smaller side, you can only afford to bring onboard one member of marketing staff for the time being, or you’re trying to get a fledgeling company off the ground.

(Just remember that making one marketing person do everything is not a sustainable model in the long run, though!)

They’re adaptable
Many companies think that one-time marketing agency employees won’t be able to adapt to that in-house marketing life.

But, remember, these are people used to dealing with totally different campaigns from two completely contrasting industries. So if you can handle an 8am meeting with P&G and a 2pm conference call with Shell in just one day, you’ll certainly have the flexibility for in-house marketing.

On the other hand, marketers used to working in-house have likely been moulded and shaped in their former roles.

So, hiring someone from a marketing agency background allows you the chance to shape them to your in-house way of doing things, precisely because they’re not another stuck-in-their-ways marketer used to working in-house.

They’re malleable and, as a result, adaptable, meaning they’ll slot into your marketing team in no time.

They have specialised knowledge and skills
Hiring a marketing exec with years of in-house experience is all well and good. What people assume is they’ve probably got used to the way things work (sometimes a little too used to the way things work–see above!) and they likely have deep and specialised knowledge of their particular industry.

On the flip side, people assume exactly the opposite of former-agency marketers. They assume that they don’t have deeply specialised knowledge.

However, if they come from an agency which focused on, for example, SEO or PR or even data, they absolutely do have more in-depth knowledge and insight into that particular industry. Why? Because they’ll have worked with a range of clients to give detailed business strategies backed up by data.

Furthermore, people with agency backgrounds have to find solutions to business problems that don’t necessarily arise all the time in-house.

This talent for working well under pressure can (obviously) be a huge asset to a business because former-agency marketers will probably approach problems in a distinct way and generally just introduce fresh ideas.

They’ll be an asset when you start working with agencies
A good marketing department should eventually aim to have in-house marketers who can outsource some of the more specialised tasks to an agency. It streamlines the whole process and frees up the in-housers to focus on bigger picture stuff.

So, hiring a former agency marketer can pay dividends when your company starts working with agencies. After all, they can help smooth and improve communication, because they know and understand how agencies work.

This is unlike those used to working only in-house, who typically don’t get truly understand the complexity of the challenges that agencies face.

So, having someone with this background can bridge the gap, improve the relationship and ultimately enhance the quality of work with external agencies, providing better transparency and communication. Basically, a former-agency hire can help make the whole process more efficient.

They’ll relish the chance to see projects through to the end
Something that plagues former agency employees in the marketing sphere–specifically those who previously worked at market research agencies–is the assumption that they can’t see a job through.

In short, clients believe that they lack end-to-end ownership.

For example, if you’re working with a data agency they provide lots of information and insight but, ultimately, it’s the company that decides exactly how to run with it. Which is true.

But, if you were given the chance to see a project you’d put in motion through to the end, in a more hands-on way, wouldn’t you leap at the opportunity?

So would many former market research agency hires.


Have you hired a one-time agency marketer?

How did it go?

Or, are you still on the fence about doing so?

Let me know via email at or add me on LinkedIn and we can chat!


In 5 Minutes, I’ll Give You The Truth About THE 10,000 HOUR RULE

Practice makes perfect.

It’s a phrase we’ve all heard before. I’d go as far as to say it’s a phrase we’ve all said before, whether to ourselves or a frustrated friend in need of a somewhat superficial boost.

However, I doubt that any of us have made quite as much money from the idea as the Canadian writer Malcolm Gladwell.

It was his book, Outliers, which originally helped popularise a snazzier sounding version of ‘practice makes perfect’ back in the dark days of the recession: The 10,000 Hour Rule.

It certainly has a certain buzzword-y ring to it.

The idea behind the ‘10,000 Hour Rule’ is that deliberate, sustained practice in one specific field plays a crucial role in becoming an expert in that discipline. And since the book was published in 2008, it’s been used as a go-to theory on the sacrifice it takes to be successful.

But it’s not quite that simple.

K. Anders Ericsson, the Swedish psychologist behind the original study which coined the ‘10,000 Hour Rule’ believes Gladwell vastly oversimplified the theory, something Gladwell himself now recognises.

Quite simply, practice alone just isn’t enough nor does it exist in a vacuum. (A.k.a. There are other factors at play.)

Ask anyone who spent thousands of hours kicking a football about as a kid, yet failed to become the next Beckham.

Yet Gladwell’s thesis is actually much more nuanced than the fairly broad-strokes ‘10,000 Hour Rule’ implies.

He actually spends a large portion of the book highlighting an array of other factors which play a part in the development of what Liam Neeson might call ‘a very particular set of skills’.

Factors like access, privilege, cultural upbringing, and race, to name but a few.


So, if practice doesn’t make perfect…what does?

As recruiters and talent developers, figuring out an answer to that certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Environment might be more important than racking up the hours
Nurturing talent is about much more than simply giving someone a ton of responsibility and letting them crack on. Practice (alone) doesn’t make perfect, nor does it exist in a vacuum, remember?

A lot of the time the first port of call is to tag ‘Digital’ on to someone’s job title and hope that suddenly makes them an expert. Unfortunately, without the relevant budget, training, technology & measurement of performance, the development or true specialists who understand an ever-changing landscape is going to be severely limited.

That’s not to say that giving a new recruit time to get to grips with a role and allowing the natural learning curve to play out is necessarily a bad thing. (Although, do keep in mind that racking up 10,000 hours will take about five working years.) In fact, it’s crucial. But it’s also not the only thing.

Expertise cannot develop without passion
Think back to your maths lessons at school (delete as appropriate, leaving behind the one you hated the most).

You might have put in plenty of hours in those lessons–although maybe not quite 10,000–but do you remember Pythagoras’ Theorem? Shakespeare’s soliloquies? The Spanish for anything beyond ‘dos cervezas, por favor’?

In short, without passion for a topic, no amount of practice time is going to turn you into an expert.

The same logic is equally applicable to employers trying to find talent to be nurtured.

In an ever-changing landscape, previous experience (even 10,000 hours of it) quickly becomes redundant if the desire to continue learning disappeared 8,596 hours ago.

So, when searching for digital & eCommerce talent for FMCG businesses, the intersection of experience between skills and sector is still relatively small, so taking a broader view than square pegs for square holes is crucial.

Without these traits, all that practice may amount to nothing than more than banging your head against a digital brick wall.

Think of it this way: 10,000 hours + passion x environment = someone on their way to success. All you have to do is find them.


It’s time to bring dirty talk into the office. Here’s why.

Dirty talk needn’t stay between the sheets. It’s also time to bring it into the boardroom.

Although, admittedly, the dirty talk I’m thinking of probably isn’t the type you’re thinking of. (That would be, uh, a recipe for a lawsuit, to say the least.)

No, my dirty talk is all about addressing the elephant in the room.

But first, some context.

In my previous role as MD of a private equity-backed business, I had the pleasure (and pain) of working with an incredibly astute Investment Director.

He knew little about the inner workings of a recruitment business day-to-day but was all over the commercially savvy business decisions.

He had little time for excuses and never held back when it came to cutting right to the core of any perceived issues.

In operational or board meetings (which, luckily, he didn’t attend regularly), he felled those elephants in the room like a ruthless (but perhaps ethically-questionable) poacher.

He would ask the ‘dirty questions’ in meetings. He only dabbled in dirty talk, if you will.

While doing this made him few friends, it always ensured any issues–or even potential issues–were addressed up front.

Unlike the other kind of dirty talk, it wasn’t always fun–no meeting he attended turned into a glorified back slapping exercises–but it was highly effective.

That’s because boardroom ‘dirty talk’ involves asking the questions that others shy away from, the ones they’re afraid to ask.

One example that sticks in my mind from this particular dirty talking Investment Director were discussions around a key commercial metric: payout ratio.

In laywoman’s terms, a payout ratio is the entire staff’s gross salaries divided by the company’s gross profit.

Sounds boring, right? That’s because it is.

But if this metric was ever above 40%, our Investment Director would dissect it forensically and get right to the core of the issue.

Typically, a payout ratio above 40% meant that (broadly-speaking) senior team members were under-performing. The Investment Director had no problem with calculating an individual’s payout ratio, before deducting this from that of the overall business as if to underline his point about their slacking.

But what does this have to do with me?

Well, in recruitment we’re often brilliant at talking up the positives and glossing over the not-so-positives. It’s part of the job, right? It’s part of most people’s jobs, really.

But rarely does glossing over the tough stuff get you anywhere. It’s only when you tackle it head on that progress is made.

And following those meetings with the Investment Director, I always sensed we had made progress.

So, don’t be ashamed to talk dirty. Ask the tricky questions, because your business or team will be all the better for it.

And if you’re the MD (or, generally speaking, hold any higher-up position)? Prepare to field those dirty questions. Ask yourself the dirty questions in preparation. That way, you’ve got a better chance of identifying the solution before the problem truly arises.


Scaling new heights in recruitment: An interview with industry veteran Steve Carter

Vertical Advantage is lucky enough to be working with the hugely experienced and knowledgeable Steve Carter from Elite Squared. As our Non-Exec Director, he provides not only exceptional industry expertise and know-how but does so with humour and charisma, making him the perfect partner for our business. I invited Steve in for a coffee to talk about his life in recruitment and gain his unique insight into the industry now and in the future.

Tell us about your career and how you got to where you are today

I am an accidental recruiter! I trained in accountancy but ended up moving into recruitment in 1986. I was looking for a better paid job so I went to see a recruitment consultant in Sydney. The consultant suggested that I become a Recruitment Consultant myself – so that’s what I did.

My first boss took me under his wing and set me up well. I billed immediately and broke sales records in my first month. What started as an adventure for me, stayed as an adventure! That’s the theme of my working life.

I began working in Australia for Hays and was then headhunted by the specialist Accountancy, Finance and Banking division of ADIA. I was initially responsible for a business relaunch/turnaround project but was seconded to lead a project to bid & secure the exclusive recruitment rights to the Sydney Olympic Games. Winning that contract really accelerated things for me and I was subsequently transferred to Singapore to head up the company’s South East Asian operations. This was an amazing opportunity which included a ‘once in a career’ opportunity to be part of a team that brokered a deal with the Chinese government to set up the 1st licensed employment agency in China!

ADIA merged with ECCO and I was relocated to London with the newly formed Adecco. I was then headhunted by Robert Half, and took over as their MD in 2000 and with the support of a great team we grew the businesses dramatically over the next 5 years.

After so much experience, I wanted to invest in a business and, in partnership with Premier Group (Ireland), made a number of strategic acquisitions which formed the global agency Morgan McKinley. As part of my board responsibilities I found myself back in China (!) working with the local team on the opening their office in Shanghai as well as taking responsibility for operations in Hong Kong, Australia, Japan and Singapore.

Back in London in 2014, I had the urge to leave big recruitment and work with people who were really making a difference in the industry. This desire pushed me to set up my own consultancy. My consultancy works with SME recruitment agencies, inspiring recruiters to have the courage to change. As 75% of SME recruiters fail in 2 years, I guide them to understand that they must change with the industry if they want to survive.

And what about the role you do for Vertical Advantage?

My role at Vertical Advantage is two-fold. I work with David as the owner/manager to support him and challenge him. I’m here for him to check in with, bounce ideas off and generally push him as an owner to keep developing his business. As well as this, I’ve got a strategic role. I introduce strategic concepts to the business that help make it sustainable and avoid potential issues in the future.

I’m a firm believer in business owners working ON their business and not just working in it. It’s important for them to look at the big picture to develop and survive, to take time to focus on marketing and branding and to build on insights and ideas.

Vertical Advantage is now in an exciting place! They’re investing in their people and in marketing and branding. They are focusing on their specialisms so they can become the market leader and go-to recruitment provider in their sectors. They’re aligning themselves with exciting growth businesses (just like their own) like artisan food brands and funky, digital start-ups. As well as long-term relationships with larger FMCG businesses, they are working with creative next generation brands who are ahead of the curve.

How has Vertical Advantage changed in the time that you’ve been working with the company?

Vertical Advantage has gone through the key stages of a small recruitment business that is starting to fulfil its vision. It started off in what I like to call ‘survival mode’ where the MD did it all. It then became a business which gained some maturity, building its team of consultants. David steered the ship in a good way. Now it really is a ‘business with a soul’. It’s built on David’s values. The company culture and team values are truly genuine. It’s a business full of nice people who independently are the protectors of the soul of the company. The cultural affinity of Vertical Advantage leads to its success.

What do you think differentiates Vertical Advantage from other recruitment agencies?

There’s lots of ways in which Vertical Advantage is different from other recruitment agencies. It’s boutique, specialist and individual. They focus on their specialisation which sets them apart. Also, the quality of their consultants is a massive part of it. They would rather do a good job or no job! They’d never ‘sell’ a ‘bad’ candidate because they understand the importance of their reputation.

Vertical Advantage understands the industry and that agencies need to develop to survive. They understand that the industry is changing, that life is online and that the recruitment industry needs to be moving towards the talent instead of expecting the talent to change their ways. Importantly, Vertical Advantage is in tune with the ongoing shift in ‘buyer behaviour’ in the industry and reflects that.

What do you think are the main challenges for recruitment businesses in the private sector in 2018?

I’d say that one of the main challenges for recruitment businesses is simply not enough leadership. Leadership is perpetuating bad habits from the past, shaped by their own experiences. Newer managers in the industry are up for taking risks, whereas older managers and current leaders aren’t necessarily up for taking the risks that are needed. I see how many recruitment businesses are gripped by financial fear. They’re scared of change and the ‘what ifs’.

Another key challenge is for recruitment businesses to work out where they add value. The traditional focus of recruitment agencies was business development but now it’s a candidate business. Professional people exist in pools online and the challenge to recruitment businesses today is to be uber niche and specialist in your area so that you can add value.

What do you think are the main opportunities for recruitment agencies and consultants in 2018?

I think there is huge opportunity for recruitment agencies to become more holistic in their approach. They have the opportunity to move beyond just the mechanical approach to getting people a job.

There’s a big opportunity for agencies to diversify into affiliated recruitment related areas, for example psychometric testing. As recruitment agencies diversify into offering other services there is room for growth.

What are the biggest changes to the recruitment industry that you’ve seen over the years? Any predictions on changes to come in 2018 and beyond?

Looking back now, what seemed and felt like seismic changes to the industry over the last 30 years were not actually that big a change after all. Right now is when we are going through seismic changes in the industry.

We’re experiencing a massive cultural shift in the workforce, flexible working being just one example of this. The growth of AI is hugely significant and is just one factor that will be shaping the jobs that exist in the market. AI will make some jobs redundant and new jobs will exist in the future that don’t exist today – technology based jobs, after we’ve gone through what some people call the 4th industrial revolution.

The knock-on effect to recruitment will be massive. There’ll be brand new types of jobs, like new disciplines of data scientists and strategists, plus a different generation (beyond the Millennials) ready to fulfil them. The biggest changes to the industry are now.

Predictions for now and beyond – I think the internal HR department as we know it in business will become less fashionable and HR as a notion will disappear. Instead, I can see the concept being broken down into specialist areas and people becoming experts in individual specialist areas like diversity or mobility.

For the recruitment industry, they need to adjust to the changing times. A job is part of human DNA, a rock-solid element of life and the recruitment industry needs to evolve to play a wider role.

What is your most crucial piece of advice for recruitment businesses to follow to be successful?

My main advice for owners is that they need to be opened minded about how they represent the market they serve – essentially not just behaving the same as they did for the last 25 years and expecting it to work.

SME business recruitment owners are often gripped by fear of losing profits which prevents them from changing for fear they’ll go broke. My advice is, you must change or you will go broke! Innovate or die. Change and grow. Don’t be gripped by fear. Get over the wall that may be standing in your way, get good advice and always innovate!

How do you see the industry in the future?

I think the conventional recruitment agency will be gone as buyers of recruitment will be looking for a different type of service. I think there’ll be a growth in Peer 2 Peer platforms in the recruitment industry, copying our interest in them in other scenarios, as people look for recommendations for candidates. But these platforms can make the hiring of individuals a much more disposable process.

This is where the recruitment agency can step up – offering compliance, background knowledge, dealing with issues and more – that’s what will be the USP of the agencies of the future.


10 reasons why you might LOVE working for Vertical Advantage

Let’s face it:

Finding a job in recruitment is tough! Especially in London!

There are thousands of companies and even more jobs to consider.

But what really make’s it confusing is how many businesses seem to all appear pretty much the same and work in exactly the same “salesy” way.

So with this in mind, how do you work out where is the best cultural fit and who will support you most in career development?

We truly believe we genuinely offer a different proposition.

Here are 10 points as to why we think working here is great. (P.S. If you share our values you’ll probably agree too!)

1. Our people come first

Every single day each one of us works to make Vertical Advantage a better business and a more enjoyable effort. That’s the personal responsibility of everyone in the business, not just mine or the leadership team, and we all appreciate this.

2. We’re good at the job

Our team is a combination of talent, experience, and sheer hard work. You’ll learn by osmosis, every single day, and in doing so, you help make the company what it is: a team of experts who love their work.

3. We’re led by quality

We don’t create harmful KPIs for CV sends or time on the phone. We know that quality takes time, thought, and sometimes negotiation, and we want you to find the best people and options for our treasured client base.

4. We’re grown up

Seriously, if you need to work from home because a fridge is being delivered from Argos any time between 8 am and 8 pm, that’s fine. Don’t worry about it. Just log on remotely, and crack on with your day. We trust our employees.

5. We help each other

With the wide range of skill sets, ambitions, and client requirements we see every day, the opportunities for cross-selling are vast. No desk is ever truly cold. Your colleagues are not over-protective about their clients and candidates and will want to see you succeed.

6. We have a strategy

Sounds sensible, doesn’t it? We know from experience that many recruitment businesses bounce from one idea to the next. At Vertical Advantage, we know where we are going, and we know how to get there.

7. We have meaningful values

You can find our values on our website. Have a read, but understand that these literally describe the reality of working at Vertical Advantage. They explain how we work with our audiences, both external and internal, and because we favour a straight-up approach, buzz words are banned here.

8. We offer a career, not a job

We’re hot on continuing professional development here, and you’ll find a variety of options to help you develop your career the way you want. Our experience helps us understand how you can get the best out of yourself in order to progress.

9. We’re passionate

It’s not about filling jobs (although sure, that’s a side result of our efforts), it’s about working in a sector we love and understand. The best way to capture this is to read some of the blogs we have published. Please check out our .

10. Our people come first

We didn’t want you to lose sight of the overriding purpose of the business. Our people make our business what it is, and we’d be nothing without them.

Want to join the tribe?

After all of this, if you think your values are aligned with ours, then please apply via our website application form at the bottom of the page.

But remember:

We DON’T want your CV.

And we don’t want a corporate sounding covering letter with lots of buzzwords you think we might want to hear.

We are sure you are ‘driven and personable’ and you are ‘both motivated to work as an individual or as part of a team’ but we’d like to know something different!

From there, we will be in touch to arrange a coffee, and we can get to know each other informally, without going through a strict interview process.

We look forward to hearing from you.


A new website for Vertical Advantage

Drum roll please!

With a bright and shiny refresh of our brand identity, Vertical Advantage is pleased to reveal our new website with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a professional recruitment agency with your future in mind.

Since our launch in 2012, Vertical Advantage has always been sure of its identity. We recruit permanent, contract, and interim professionals in key vertical markets such as food and drink, consumer products, retail, marketing and media agencies, and many more besides.

You can guess where our name Vertical Advantage originated!

But four years on, in these fast-changing times, we became acutely aware our current digital presence was not quite where we needed it to be.

We embarked on a marketing journey to understand what we wanted to say and how we wanted to be perceived by the market. We also looked at some data (Google Analytics) to understand how our existing users interacted with our site.

The new website is a result of all of this work and so much more, and we are delighted with its results. We were able to address a few key issues, and introduce some great new features that we are sure our customers and employees will love!

Smarter Job Search
The job search on our previous site was a little bit clunky. Our revised job search enables candidates to search by salary or day rate first, and then offers a streamlined version that lets users be really specific about what they want to see. We also built in a keyword search from the home page, which replicates the ‘Google’ experience that we know many of our users trust.

Modern look and feel
The style of the website is, of course, crucial to that great ‘first impression’. Aligning Vertical Advantage more closely to the forward-thinking FMCG and consumer brands we do business with, made a lot of sense. We wanted to modernise Vertical Advantage without losing our original vision for the brand that made us unique. To get there, our team worked collectively with our agency partners to decide on a final identity that suited who we are now. We wanted the logo to be modern, future-proof, social-media friendly, and to build affinity with our target markets.

Mobile optimised
We realised many of our users (job seekers and clients) increasingly access our website on their mobile and tablet devices. Not only that, all the data out there tells us to think ‘mobile first’. Our previous site was not mobile optimised, so users found it harder to access the information they wanted from us.

So yes! Our new site is now fully mobile optimised, and in addition, it can now accept mobile applications for job roles. Just attach your CV from your device, Dropbox or Google Drive storage. You can apply for your perfect role on your commute or even in the middle of lunch!

Go on, take a little look on your mobile device if you haven’t already!


Our Engage Page
Because we understand the power of online marketing, the VA team now produces more social media and blog content than ever before. This helps us demonstrate our market expertise, as well as our personal passions in the world of food and drink. Our old website just didn’t do this justice, so now we’re so happy that our new website has a clever ‘social wall’ feature. We’ve called it our ‘Engage Page’, because it pulls in our latest original content, including our LinkedIn and Instagram feed.

Don’t forget to bookmark this page to be the first to hear of our latest blogs, insights and news!

Showing off the Vertical Advantage Culture
Vertical Advantage is a great place to work (ask any of our team)!

In 2016 we did a huge piece of work to define our culture and articulate what makes us unique. We distilled this into 3 key values:

  • We’re straight-talking and down to earth
  • We work hard, but we also work smart
  • We’re innovative, agile and open

​Our ‘Join us‘ area on our website really brings our values to life, in a simple yet dynamic way that reflects our culture properly. Our team are very social and we love to explore the best places in London, so keep an eye on our live Instagram feed, where you can find all our latest team outings, gossip, and of course visits to London’s best eateries! We hope we can use this to attract more great talent to our business.

As with any digital project we know the hard work is not over yet and we will continue to monitor and evolve our presence to reflect our customers’ needs.

So, please check out our new website and let us know what you think.


The underlying problems in FMCG sales hiring and what to do differently

Clients often put it to me that there’s a scarcity of qualified professionals looking for that second or third job in the Sales and Account Management space in FMCG.

But the truth is, there’s not a lack of impressive professionals. They’re simply just looking in the wrong places.

If you too are struggling to hire a National Account Executives (NAE) or Junior Commercial Talent, there may be some hard truths to face.

In this blog, I’m going to cover the 4 main reasons you might not be getting what you’re after and tips on how to avoid putting all you’re the best candidates off.

1. Candidates aren’t wow’ed by your benefits as much as you think

It might seem obvious, but if an individual has had over a year’s exposure to P&L, they need not only need to be rewarded. They need to be rewarded adequately.

Especially if they have the right skill set.

Remember: It’s rare these candidates can be secured for packages lower than £40k per annum.

2. Candidates aren’t demanding as much as you think

Those who want a £10k pay rise and will only work for a top 20 FMCG brand might sound bold, but in reality, this is a reasonable market rate and requirement when it comes to salary change.

3. They’ve got more options than you think

And I’m not just talking the top brands.

These days there is a whole new world of choice in the start-up, SME space.

What’s so appealing?

The next wave of innocent drinks copycats may entice with modern interior, multi-functional breakout spaces, flexible and co-working options working, cycle to work schemes and other perks like unlimited beer taps and table tennis next to their desks.

This means there’s nothing stopping candidates stepping outside the sector and into the consulting, finance or tech industry.

Remember: it’s likely that they’re able to use their client-facing experience to command a premium.

4. Entry opportunities offered aren’t as exciting as you think

This may come as a shock but not that many people want to trek round the country for a couple of years in a branded Mini. It seems a lot of companies are missing a trick if the opportunity for entry level FMCG sales is limited.

If they don’t come through a graduate scheme and this is the only way to secure an admin-led NAE role they’re probably going to be put off.

Remember: field sales experience is useful but is rarely a springboard into national accounts these days.


If you want to bag the best of the best read these 2 tips below:

1. Invest in grad schemes / programmes
As they grow with you, you’ll be able to hold on to your talent for longer.

Candidates who enter the sector earning at £30,000 can easily be progressed within 2–3 years to a larger role earning up to £15–20k more.

It’s often at this point they need a career move to smash through the glass ceiling to the next level.

2. Hire outside of FMCG
Aside from this, my advice to FMCG hiring managers is that you must, must open your eyes and understand there is a huge pool of talent outside FMCG.

If you don’t step outside the box when hiring, you’ll only end up hiring all the same type of people. You can do so much better than only hiring people who have worked in FMCG doing the same role in a similar business. P.S. moving from retail buying doesn’t count!

If you have a diverse pool of talent it adds richness through different lenses of knowledge, experiences, cultures and backgrounds.

Diversity breeds creativity and innovation equating to better financial performance.

A common misconception is there’s a shortage of talent in applicants for FMCG.

But in fact, there is great talent, it’s just you that you’ve been looking into the wrong place! Talent can easily be attracted by some of the sectors mentioned above and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the industry is still blinkered, and mainly hiring from within.

The bulk of hiring managers want candidates who ‘tick every box’

What do you need to do differently?

Firstly, get real!

When you change your mindset you change the game.

If you are doing any of the 4 points I mentioned above, then I can guarantee the candidate will be bored in three months and looking for his next step in 12 months at the latest!

Remember: there’s always someone else prepared to offer an extra £10k and a bigger job.

So, forget the industry and focus on the person.

Find the right competencies, the right personal attributes, which match your brand values, and train the rest!

In three months, that person will be a far stronger and more positive employee that’s genuinely grateful for the opportunity your business gave them.

If you want to read more about this topic and understand why sales professionals are moving from retail to the supplier side more and more, check out my colleague, Richard Bowen’s most recent blog.


Podcasts, Paul and Me – a reminder about the importance of listening.

Quite recently I have started listening to podcasts – I know, I’m pretty late to the game here (you can see the theme of late adopter shining through as my second blog is being written) but I’m not ashamed to say I am hooked… they had me at “Hello”. Podcasts have made the 30-minute Northern Line squeeze-fest a bit more pleasurable (though we were coming from a low base!) The Jerry Maguire link doesn’t end with the line above as the podcasts I have most enjoyed thus far are with great sportsmen and women who are both articulate and informative, intertwining amusing anecdotes about their life in sport and how this resonates with their new careers, often in business.

Amusing anecdotes about their life in sport and how this resonates with their new careers, often in business.

This has struck a chord with me as they combine my love of sport and business – something I know is not uncommon. At present I have listened to about 20 of these from Brian O’Driscoll to Peter Beardsley but the one that I have really identified with most was an interview with Paul McGinley (The Irishman Abroad podcast), European captain of the 2014 Ryder Cup winning team. McGinley was a good pro who had to work hard at his game and has some great stories of how he became a professional golfer arising from a Gaelic Football injury. However, there were three fundamental areas he touched upon with great eloquence that I have taken from his career to date:

1. Seeking Advice
Surround yourself with mentors and always look for opportunities to learn more from others. McGinley’s great success in winning the Ryder Cup as captain was meticulously planned but he attributes a great degree of his success to those he has had around him. I have always found in my recruitment career, I have performed best when having somebody to learn from, bounce ideas off and give me perspective… Tell me I’m being an idiot, pat me on the back when it’s going well and so on – all these things really help. There are so many owner managers in recruitment but from what I can see, most forge ahead alone without help from the outside, which, I believe, is an error.Â

2. Careers Trees
McGinley gives a great analogy on careers and likens them to climbing a tree in that you start at the bottom, think you know the way to the top but stepping onto a particular branch can take you in a completely different direction. Often you need to go back to the bottom of the tree and find another way… Very few people climb the (career) tree in a straight line and for me, it really hit home. The point here is to keep learning, every wrong step or broken branch is a learning curve and going back to the start is never easy but once you come out the other end and have taken something from it, then the journey hasn’t been wasted. This makes far more sense to me than the out-dated career ‘ladder’ which assumes people will go straight up – nowadays, people gain experience by working in different areas / markets, by making mistakes and through building experience.

3. Planning in detail
There were some great references in this podcast around the planning for the Ryder Cup a long time in advance of the actual event. And as the it got closer, some of those plans were chrystalised and some were discarded, with McGinley going into huge amounts of detail with some of the smallest factors effecting the teams overall performance. When this strategy was applied as whole, there is no doubt this level of planning gave his team the edge when it came to the big occasion . My belief is that we (I absolutely include myself!) – the owner managers of SME recruitment companies – are very short term in our planning. We often have long term goals and ideals but the pathway to these goals is driven by gut instinct, current market conditions or being in the right place at the right time… we have all had the opportunity at one point or another to diversify into a new market (‘the next big thing’) or hire a superstar that can take you there – often we take that chance but rarely does it end up being a success.

Was I aware of these points before? Yes.

Is there anything new and ground breaking in the points I have made? No.

However, hearing those points applied in a different setting by somebody I admire through the medium of sport, was incredibly powerful and enjoyable at the same time.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has had a similar experience with podcasts and would have any recommendations for me to listen to – my email is

Is a recruitment business more like a noodle bar than you think?

I’ll come clean. As an economics graduate working in recruitment, I really don’t spend much time mining the ‘intellectual resources’ gathered during my degree. But a great article by Mark Ritson in Marketing Week a few months back got me thinking about elasticity of demand and supply in recruitment.

According to Ritson, a noodle bar in Singapore received a Michelin star and hit a massive boom in demand – way beyond what it could supply. This gave it an unusual opportunity: to increase prices without affecting sales volume.

Did the owner do it?


According to Ritson, he is ‘hopeless at pricing’.

See, inelasticity – where price increase does not lead to a significant drop in demand – is a dream situation for most businesses, and one that may sometimes never happen.

If you’ve earned it, use it!

Inelasticity and recruitment
So consider this: in recruitment, inelasticity is a reflection of client loyalty and agency quality.

The conditions for kindling inelastic demand, mean agencies need to adhere to a meaningful value proposition.

Pricing is too often used as a negotiating tool, but it’s a mistake to define the ‘value’ of your proposition in purely monetary terms.

You owe it to your brand – the promise you make to your customers and clients – to keep the price representative of the high value they get from the product.

So the question to consider, particularly in recruitment, is:

How far does your brand let you increase profitability without damaging customer and client trust?

Stretching your elasticity
There are many factors that affect your ability to be inelastic, however these are the key ones.

Supply of candidates

Good quality, reliable candidates, relatively scarce in a particular specialism make for a more inelastic situation. Their negotiated salaries and recruitment costs can be increased without damaging demand.

Quality of service

Make it easy for clients to get great candidates, and you’ll achieve overwhelmingly positive client experiences. Client loyalty is a strong sign of service inelasticity; you can set your own prices without damaging demand.

Brand representation

Where the client brand is not properly understood, the right hire can be hard to find. The better the understanding of that brand, the less likely high prices will affect demand. In addition, all the effort you put into marketing your great recruiter brand must be reflected the price you charge.

What can we learn from this?
Rapid competition at a micro level, and uncertain political events at the macro, mean in 2017, recruitment is going to hit that price-value conversation with employers more often.

The problem is, negotiation to a lower rate really leaves three choices for recruitment agencies:

  1. Suck it up and carry on.
  2. Walk away and risk future work with that client.
  3. Adjust your service proposition to match the fee you are being asked to charge. For example, let your clients know that they will be serviced by the more junior members of staff. Just like in a hair salon!

None of these options will be good for your brand you have spent so much time and money building. If you’re a specialist, providing candidates others can’t, offering a level of service unmatched by rivals, a pricing proposition that undermines this will damage your credibility and your inelasticity.

Walking away from business never sits well, but your company’s values can sometimes be more important than potential business. As a recruitment agency, we’re not afraid to walk away from clients and PSLs when the terms don’t reflect the value we bring to a company’s hiring solutions.

What are your thoughts on pricing in recruitment?