The Interim Interview Paradox: When a job rejection is a blessing in disguise

You’re after a change.

This interim role is the exact challenge you’ve been looking for.

You’ve done all of your research…so of course you feel like you’ve nailed the interview.

Then you get the bad news that you didn’t get it. What a punch in the throat!

But remember:

As an interim candidate, all disappointments can (and should) be turned on their head.

That’s why we’ve compiled 8 of the most important tips to ensure you turn a rejection into a triumph.

1. Stop what you’re doing and take stock
If you’ve been rejected after an interview, you need to assess your rejection immediately after getting the call.

This means, you’ll want to analyse how you honestly felt you did at the interview.

Look out for feedback you get from the hiring manager that doesn’t match up with the company’s view of how the interview went.

If it is drastically different to your own, then there’s a problem.

It’s crucial to be able to assess your interview performance objectively. Only then can you turn a rejection to your advantage.

Critically looking at how you performed will help you get better at interviews, increase your success rate and decrease the amount of down time between contracts.

2. Don’t accept a ‘brief’ brief

A rejection at interview can often be the push you need to take a look at how you approach the whole job process.

Start with the brief you get from the recruitment consultant.

The cardinal rule of job briefs is ‘never accept a two-line brief!’

Just because the role is a contract doesn’t mean your insight into the role should be any less.

Remember: the same level of preparation is needed for both.

3. Treat an interim interview like a perm interview

There can be a tendency to walk into an interim interview and treat it more lightly as the role is short term.

You may even think the client is thinking along same lines.

This false sense of confidence is incredibly counterproductive, and it can come across as a sense of bravado or a lack of preparation which clients hate.

Make sure you treat each interim interview as you would a permanent interview by preparing well.

When you look back, even if you may have been rejected, at least you know you did all you could.

4. What can be taken away from a rejection?

As well kick-starting an immediate self-analysis, rejection also makes you look at how you approach your interim career long term.

5. Was it really the right role at the right time?

Rejection can inspire you to think in-depth about where you’re going.

It can also fine tune the roles you apply for.

You don’t know what is around the corner, but it pays to really consider if the roles you’re going for are the right ones for you.

6. Running a skills MOT

I always recommend doing a skills MOT every year or so.

If you’ve recently been rejected, this is the perfect time.

Take a circumspect look at your abilities and areas that need developing and make sure you’re fully promoting your top attributes.

After a skills MOT, you can also reverse the recruitment process by approaching businesses and keeping on their radar.

Lastly, make sure you build relationships with recruitment agencies and make sure you are front of their minds as well.

7. Don’t bet on one outcome

In interim recruitment, a lot more things could go wrong compared with permanent roles, so you’ve got to learn to play the odds.

You may be the best person for the role, but the situation could change – the role could go internally, the budget could be pulled, the project may get cancelled or the decision could be influenced by a multitude of other reasons.

Keep all your avenues open and never close yourself to opportunities because they don’t appear great on paper.

Don’t forget, it’s best to meet people face to face and the opportunity may surprise you.

8. Create long-term relationships

As an interim, it’s vital to develop a long-term strategic partnership with one or two recruitment consultants.

Use this relationship to your advantage.

Well if you want a quick win, how about working with us to get advice about the market and areas you could improve?

Let’s face it: We want you to be successful in your interim career just as much as you do.

The best recruitment consultants understand that your long-term career development is beneficial to you and them.

Ultimately, what’s important?
Well, playing the long game as an interim is more important than short term gain.

Learning from every rejection is as important as learning in every new role you take on.

You’ll never get to the stage of being successful in every interview you go to, but you will get better at picking up the roles that you want and getting more enjoyment and skills enhancement from your interim career.

So next time you hear those dreaded work “sorry you were not successful…”, don’t just walk away from it – learn from it.

It will make you a better interim and will allow you to develop the career you had planned at the start.

Can Companies REALLY plan for their interim needs?

In one of my recent blogs I looked at how interims can plan their career by understanding their overall career goals and why they are doing interim work.

This got me thinking about whether companies can plan ahead for interims and how beneficial this can be when it’s done well. Generally, interims are taken on in a reactive way as a response to a bottleneck. However, with some advance thinking, hiring managers can take control of their interim recruitment needs, maximising their hiring spend and getting access to the best interims in the market.

Forward planning involves considering a few things:

1. Forecasting bottlenecks: Spending time at the start of the year anticipating when your team will be busiest and facing potential bottlenecks. These bottlenecks will give you an idea of when your team could be under resourced and as a result, when interims may be needed.

2. Understanding staff ambitions: Every good team will have people who are ambitious and looking to grow their careers. This can have a knock-on effect on the wider team as individuals look for secondments, promotions or opportunities outside your business. Recognising your high flyers and giving them opportunities could lead to you needing to build in an interim later in the year to cover the shortfall.

3. Recognising employment lifecycles: As well as career progression, there will be instances where people will retire, take extended leave or go on maternity leave. These should be the easiest wins for recognising when interims will be needed. Getting those gaps solved as much in advance as possible, as soon as you’ve been made aware of the change, gives you the best chance of reaching the top interims in the market.

4. Working in partnership: Remember to view recruiters as much more than just a sourcing channel. Strong, insightful interim recruiters act as a consultative partner. They will be able to tell you what the market for certain disciplines will look like at any given time helping you to assess what you need.

There are many benefits to forecasting your interim needs:

1. Cost savings: Usually, the more urgent the hire, the more expensive it will be. Understanding your interim needs as much in advance as you can means you can make the most of your budget. It puts you in a better negotiating position so you can get more ‘bang for your buck’. Also, working out how long you need the interim for helps prevent paying for extra, unnecessary time.

2. Reaching top talent: The best talent in the interim market is usually snapped up pretty quickly and unless you time it correctly, you will miss out on the best. Imagine a scenario where you know a month or two (or more!) in advance that you need an interim. You can find out who is going to be available and secure them using a golden handcuffs deal. Not only are you providing the interim with a secure contract, but you are also guaranteeing that you have the best person for the role.

3. Integrating interims: Thinking ahead can make a huge difference to how a person is integrated into your business. Sometimes bringing in an interim on very short notice can lead to disruption and there will be very little time for onboarding. Preparing your team in advance for an interim and providing effective onboarding, means they’ll be ready to go from day one. This is especially true if an interim is coming onboard to run a particular project. If they are aware well in advance, then they can start working out how they will run the project and provide the best possible outcome.

4. Noticing knowledge gaps: Within a team’s lifecycle, there will always be those points in time where knowledge gaps become visible. Anticipating these points helps stop them from being an issue as you will know when these gaps need to be filled. Having the right interim at the right time lets the team continue to perform at the level expected of them.

All in all, it is possible to plan ahead for interims. By putting in some time and thought at the beginning, it’s possible to save money and maximise the contribution an interim will make to your business.

Interim Career Planning – Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!!

Navigating your roadmap to a successful interim career
As the Interim and Contracts manager at Vertical Advantage, one of the things I always get asked is ‘how do you manage an interim career to gain as much career satisfaction or advancement as a permanent career?’

Most people would assume that as an interim you pick up new jobs as they come in so your career history will look haphazard with no direction. With a little planning and foresight, however, it is possible to chart a defined path through your interim career, which will allow you to achieve all your goals you set out from the start.

If you know what you want your interim journey to look like then you should take these important points into account:

What do you want to achieve working as an interim?

This is probably the most important thing to think about. Are you working as an interim for the money, for the challenge, or to allow you to experience several different sectors or disciplines?

Once you identify why you became an interim in the first place, you can decide which opportunities will suit you best. Sometimes it may be a combination of goals, but you may want to change your goals after a couple of assignments. There are no hard-and-fast rules on why you became an interim in the first place, but the most important thing is to know what that reason is and keep it foremost in your mind.

Accepting the first role offered?

The eternal dilemma for an interim is whether to ‘twist or stick’. Do you accept the first role offered, or do you wait a little longer to see if a role better suited to your goals will turn up? This depends on a couple of things: the current state of the job market (whether it is busy or quiet), and how far away from your goal is the job? When the job market is quiet it maybe pertinent to accept the first thing going, but then sometimes the role may be too junior, too far away from your ideal role, or a huge commute. You may have to turn down an offer rather than walking away mid-way through the assignment as that may tarnish you with a bad reputation.

How will the role develop?

The other thing to take into consideration is whether or not your interim role will evolve whilst you are in assignment. Maybe the role is not quite right when you are offered it, but most interim roles evolve over the length of the assignment, and it may add a skillset that your CV otherwise lacked.

Always keep moving forward

Interim careers are sometimes seen as stunted compared to permanent careers, because you may not go in a straight line as you would in a permanent role. It’s fine to move roles when they are not the most logical, but one of the key things is to try and always move forward with each interim role. Have a look at the role and decide whether it is adding to your initial goals. Is it more money? Am I picking up new skills? Am I learning about a new industry? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself whilst pondering on whether to accept.

Will you go back into the permanent market in the future?

Sometimes an interim career is only a short-term lifestyle change, and you may want to ultimately go back to a permanent role. Picking the right interim role is paramount if that is your aim. The wrong interim roles, whether something too junior, short-term, or an industry change, may jeopardise your future earning potential. On the other hand, picking up the right interim roles may also enhance your career prospects, so you do need to think long term even when accepting something that may be short term!

One step back, two steps forward

Occasionally it might be worth taking a slight step backwards. Maybe you could take on a slightly junior role, or step away from management responsibilities to allow you to take a much bigger leap forward in the future. You may lack big brand or particular industry experience, and so if you take that junior role at a blue chip, it could allow you to rapidly move forward, opening up more avenues for you to explore in the future.

Cutting your losses

You start a new interim role and it isn’t quite what it is cracked up to be; it may have been mis-sold; the role may have changed, or a line manager leaves. When do you cut your losses and leave the role early? I would advise you to do so as soon as it is starts to become detrimental to you / your CV. Ultimately, the longer you stay, the more likely it will affect your future career. In the interim market, your reputation is very important, so being transparent is a key trait to a healthy interim career.

Whether you are looking at interim as a career change or you are a long-time contractor, a plan is key. Sometimes we are so engaged with the day to day job we forget to look at our long term goals. Let me know what you think! Did you have a plan of what you wanted to achieve when you became an interim or do you think having a plan may limit your options?

If you don’t yet have a plan and would like to discuss it please get in contact.

Anyone for drinks? How you could leverage current trends in the drinks industry to land your dream job.

The rise of the start-up is as prominent in the drinks industry as it is in other FMCG categories in the UK. Craft is nothing new, you have craft gin, craft beer and craft quinoa vodka, for goodness’ sake, and the category continues to ferment as new brands bubble into the market daily. It’s incredibly competitive but there’s some notable small batch gins really making noise in the industry, like Manchester Gin also up for a Great British Food Award for 2017

Together with the rise of craft is the tonic and soft drinks industry, with emerging brands like Fever Tree, Fentimans, and Franklin & Sons, now giving market leaders like Schweppes a run for their money. It’s also worth noting the emergence of the ‘low-cal’ category, which suit a more nutrition-conscious nation.

Staying with soft drinks for a moment, a few other categories have experienced growth and seen new contenders enter:

  • In spring water, Cano recently launched Canowater, a brand focused on sustainability and the environment, cannily (sorry couldn’t resist the pun) created aluminium cans of sparkling and still waters, where the packaging alone is enough to tempt you to make a purchase.
  • Tapped Trees is another brand busily making flavoured water cool again from the sap of the birch tree

Another thing I’d like to mention is the wide range of spin-off industries like subscription services. Whilst wine clubs have been around for aeons now, the subscription-based gifting services, whether drinks or cosmetics, or whatever it may be, are still really gaining momentum. One notable is Gin Craft Club with a staggering 20,000 members who receive a different gin every month/two months, along with a hamper-style box filled with related gin paraphernalia enabling you to create your perfect G&T in the comfort of your own home. There’s also a similar one called Caskers for Vodka lovers.

I think it’s a great time to be a consumer in the UK at the moment as the need for brands to keep their innovation pipeline relevant and fresh has never been more important. The result of this is a wider range of ingredients, new categories emerging, and innovative brands at our disposal, resulting in a range of highly creative products on our shelves like never before. However, life is not all about socialising and consuming, so here’s some critical success factors that I have put together about how to find work in the burgeoning drinks industry right now:

How can I get into the drinks industry?

Get yourself out there before you apply anywhere
More often than not you will learn your trade through the trade, so if you are applying for jobs with drinks companies, get out there and understand the brand perception. Identify if they are mass market or premium, who their competitors are, what the price-point is, what the promotions are, and if it tastes good. This first-hand research is especially important if you are making a switch from an entirely different industry.

Choose the business type carefully
If you are a sales professional looking for entry level positions, consider whether you want to work for an SME or if you want to join a larger business where you could get training development, and a better appreciation of other functions and resources like category management, shopper marketing, and consumer insights.

What traits do drinks companies look for?

Show you understand the business

The on-trade to off-trade transition will forever be an issue. If you are a NAE/NAM currently in the on-trade trying to make a switch, you will need to find comparisons with the Grocery/Retail channel. For example, building and negotiating Joint Business Plans (JBP’s, category management approaches, or where you have perhaps had crossover with colleagues in the off-trade in projects before.

Be a brand ambassador!
As we’ve seen with some of the recent trends, this is a really exciting, yet competitive time to be in drinks, so if you are considering a move to a Craft Gin, Beer or Tonic brand, bear in mind that there’s probably a high percentage of other people in the UK who also think it’s a cool job too. To get ahead, ensure that you are able to demonstrate your industry knowledge at interview, it sounds obvious, but think about what brands you like, and why, and make sure the company knows you have been into the trade and done your homework.

Be entrepreneurial
At the more experienced end of the market, let’s say you are thinking of making the switch to SME (another interesting blog covered by my colleague, Richard Bowen) you must be able to demonstrate real (and excuse the somewhat overused term) entrepreneurial spirit: how you’ve progressed, how you’ve worked cross-functionally, and where you’ve created/implemented processes from scratch.

Be prepared to work in your own spare-time
This is something probably more relevant in drinks than most other categories. You may be expected to go to festivals (what a drag!), attend events, collaborate with other brands in sponsorship agreements, deliver tasting sessions, and do pop-ups etc.

Ultimately working in the Drinks industry can involve lots of hard-work yet be extremely rewarding if you are passionate.

G&T anyone?


From Hong Kong to Manchester in 1460 days

As we all get used to waking up in the year 2017 I am once again starting a new year in the UK after 4 years of living and working abroad in Hong Kong – ‘Asia’s World City’. I have now spent an equal proportion of my career in the UK and Asian FMCG markets, and only recently returned to the city of Manchester (where I call home).

Unsurprisingly the UK hasn’t stood still since 2012; I’d barely stepped from the plane and dusted off my flip-flops when Brexit was announced – a monumental piece of our history.

Needless to say, the UK FMCG industry has moved on significantly too and I’ve spent some time comparing the Asian markets with our UK market. I think there are some key factors to consider, whether you are considering a move to Asia or returning home after an International assignment. Or indeed if you are recruiting International talent.

International Relocation
Asia is dynamic and moves fast, which is one of the many reasons so many people choose to live and work there. If you are considering an International move, there are a few things to be mindful of:

  • Those with Visas will ultimately be favoured whether moving to Asia or the UK from other parts of the world.
  • The mechanics of the FMCG/Retail industry will be very different depending on the market, for example; HK is quite insular and localised along with other parts of APAC and can be difficult to penetrate as an outsider without local market expertise and/or language. Also, the Retail landscape is very different, with none of the major UK/Global retailers ie Walmart/Tesco operating there and very few big store supermarket formats which ultimately changes the dynamics of the supplier-retailer relationship.
  • As an Account Manager/NAM on the supplier side it is likely you will find trading/negotiating with Buyers very different going from say New Zealand to the UK or the UK to Hong Kong/Dubai and language plays a big factor here.
  • You should be able to live without a salary for a period of up to 6 months which is how long it could take you to find a job if you are not relocating with your current company
  • Those that are successful at finding jobs are the one’s usually on the ground, able to get in front of recruiters and people hiring, but also have a buffer period that gives them some breathing space.

Coming home

Sometimes the biggest hurdle for people coming back to the UK or their native country after a stint overseas is the disparity of salary and cost of living.

  • Tax!!! Clearly if you are coming from a place like Hong Kong/UAE etc then you will have become accustomed to paying either very low or no tax whatsoever.
  • If you are moving home, you will need to factor in the higher tax rate when considering salary but you will also need to appreciate if you have been out of the UK market for a significant period of time there will be a degree of acclimatising yourself and a period of adjustment which may be a concern for a future employer, and remove some of your bargaining power when negotiating salary.
  • Your international experience will be deemed invaluable to certain organisations but far less useful to others, candidates with recent UK experience could be deemed as a safer bet which could limit the opportunities available to you.

The industry you left will have changed and your network may have moved on, channels may be classified differently, retailers may no longer exist, companies will have merged, or have been taken over and the overall industry landscape is likely to have changed.


Is interim work the Snapchat of work for millennials?

The oldest millennials have now been in the workplace for about 15 years and it’s clear to me as a manager for a top recruitment agency’s Interim and Contracts department, that they differ from Gen X and baby boomers with the way they work. They’re sometimes called the ‘entitled generation’ but this may not necessarily be fair. Most millennials have entered the workforce or were just at the start of their career in 2008 when we suffered the worst recession since the 1930s. Most could say this has influenced some of their general working outlook. I personally think this lack of stability will impact how millennials will view future lifestyle choices when it comes to work.

A ‘millennial’ refers to anyone born from the year 1980. The first millennials entered the workforce in the late 90s, and university-educated millennials from about 2001 onwards. World events in the last 20 years have caused unprecedented changes in the workplace. No longer are we stuck to our desks; there’s no real need to commute to work; humans are now truly globally connected in a way that doesn’t recognise borders or time zones. Loyalty to employers counts for nothing, as millennials have seen employees with decades of experience being made redundant. Not surprisingly, this has led to a mindset that work —- and the type of work chosen —- is there to support lifestyle, not just a stable rut to fall into.

When is the workforce like Snapchat?
As the millennial group of employees matures, the nature of work will change. Most millennials see themselves as job-hoppers with average tenure at most jobs for 20-somethings between 1.3 and 3.2 years. Whilst most of us from Generation X settled into careers because of family and mortgage commitments, 38% of 18 to 34 year olds still live with their parents. And mortgages are not the only things that are no longer feasible for many. As the first rung of the housing ladder gets more difficult to climb, millennials will not have the commitments that most Gen X or baby boomers have.

Add elements of flexible working arrangements and the ability to work anywhere in the world (not to mention remote working possibilities) and you have the perfect recipe for a transient workforce.

Millennials don’t see work as a validation of their existence but more of a means to an end. We have also seen the rise of the internship workforce where millennials work for short periods for minimal pay. Their attitude to work reminds me of Snapchat! A fabulous picture, right now, for no more than 10 seconds. Snap it, breathe, and it’s gone. Or they’re off, doing something else for a different company.

All of this adds up to a workforce who view work as a way of getting what they want in life, and is more amenable to interim work. The mortgages aren’t available, but transient experiences like global travel, material possessions, and interesting places to live are more likely to trend now.

The ability to work anywhere, for anyone, and for any period of time, whilst leaving room to pursue your passions, may appeal more to millennials than any other age group. With no final salary pensions, eroding benefits and work no longer being your life’s identity why would you want to pledge allegiance to just one employer?

How can employers benefit from this up-and-coming new workforce?
To reap the benefits of this transient but energetic workforce, employers will need to look at being more agile when planning a workforce. No longer is it necessary to rigidly employ just full-time permanent staff. You will miss out on a whole sector of society – the experienced veterans of the future – if you stay within this confined thinking.

Maybe you disagree and the future of work is not going to change massively as millennials age and decide that stability is the future. I would love to hear your thoughts on whether our workforce is changing and if employers are doing enough to accommodate that change. One thing is clear though, the nature of work is changing and employers need to be agile enough to adapt to these rapid changes.

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