The Covid-19 Aftermath in the Drinks Industry

I’ve recruited into the drinks industry for over three years now and have spoken to some fantastic people within the business, many of who are still close contacts of mine.

No one knew how disruptive and deadly this virus would be, and I’m sure no one thought it would make its way around the globe at the pace that it did. The global economy has been hit massively and there’s been a distressing amount of deaths caused.

I wanted to highlight the effect this has had on the drinks industry in this blog and share it.



In summary, this has been devastating on businesses that rely on on-trade business. The closure of bars and restaurants has seen cash flow effectively come to a standstill for on-trade suppliers which could, unfortunately, put many out of business.



On the contrary, suppliers who supply into the off-trade sector are seeing a rise in sales. The spirit and mentality of us Brits never cease to amaze me – Global pandemic? Let’s booze at home and on Zoom to our mates (I’m very guilty of this).

Non-alcohol businesses that supply into the off-trade are also profiting, in particular mixers and soft-drinks.


Relevance to Supply Chain?

Forecasting will be a big issue in the future for businesses in both the on-trade and off-trade. What will businesses do in the coming years? Do they completely write off this year’s forecasts? It seems that in the on-trade it’s the most sensible thing to do as bars, hotels and restaurants should be back to normal in 2021.

Yet, from an off-trade point of view sales seem to have increased during this lockdown period, making it easier to predict next year’s sales compared to on-trade.


Market Insights / Trends

One of the main trends during this lockdown has been the increase in consumer spend across E-Commerce channels across all industries. Within the drinks industry, I spoke to Julie Buckley who is Head of Buying at ELICITE, an online premium wine merchant. She said customers are spending more on their products, this includes an increase of sales in Dom Perignon and Tignanello, Megan Markle’s favourite wine and fondly known as The Tig which would usually set you back around £150+ in a restaurant.

It seems that people who would usually go out and eat at restaurants or drink at wine/cocktail bars are finding they have more disposable income and are willing to treat themselves at home.

For now, it seems that having an online presence and a delivery service is a key factor in driving sales across all industries, and I suspect we will be seeing more businesses offering an online service moving forward.


4 ways to keep your existing team engaged

As recruiters, we’ve focused a lot of how you ​can attract, hire and induct talent in this current time, but what about your existing team?

How do you ensure you continue their development and that their learning curve isn’t ‘paused’ for the next (insert your best guess!) however long?

During this time there is probably more (free of charge!) development available to you and your teams than there ever has been. So many fantastic experts are offering their time and services for no cost – make the most of this!

At Vertical Advantage, we are offering interview/ CV advice and are also giving time to clients to help them resource plan​ and are offering all sorts of benchmarking and support (including how to hire WITHOUT using recruitment agencies).

There’s plenty of other companies and experts doing the same – don’t be shy to take them up on their offer – it’s worth making the most of their amazing expertise whilst you can – here is a site we highly recommend;

Other practical steps you can take to continue your progression and development;
1. Share information virtually

Set up Slack/Teams channels so it is easy for people to find information or read about other people’s experiences.

Often in a sales environment, people assimilate information from those around them – at least certainly in our office when someone sat nearby has a situation (or makes a mistake – we do make them!) we all learn from it.

As we are a close-knit team, we all go through this process together and there is a shared learning experience for all of us.

To ensure we keep this, we’ve proactively made a point of ‘shouting’ (virtually) about these scenarios to ensure other team members are aware of what is going on. This has been invaluable to keep us together as a team, but also to ensure we are sharing best practises and learn​ing together.

2. Listen to external advice

Although it’s a unique external cause, we have seen markets dip a couple of times in our lifetimes and it’s a perfect time for people who have experienced this before to share what they have learned.

What did they have to adapt? What made the biggest impact? What resource did they need?

We’re lucky to have a NED​ (Non – Exec Director) who is doing a virtual session with the team to talk about ​what he feels we should be doing to make the most of this time.

3. Online courses

What online courses are available that would be relevant for you/ your team?

When recently talking with a PR candidate, they told me they were completing a crisis comms management course online over the weekend so they could upskill and keep up with the demands of their current role. This is a great way to learn, and these are often interactive and enjoyable sessions.

 4. Review development plans and objectives

With people at home, it’s a great time to pull out development plans and objectives that have been set and review them.

Are they still SMART in the current climate?

If not, take time to talk to your team members about what needs to be adjusted in order for them to succeed and work with them to create new goals.

For more help on setting SMART objectives see

We’re aiming to help our communities as much as we can.

Sure, we’ve got a business to run and generally speaking we make our money from placing candidates but that’s only going to be with businesses that really want/need to hire so there’s little sense in trying to force a square peg (or NAM!) into a round hole. (can we split this sentence?)

We’re providing market updates, content and commentary on a near-daily basis to those who are interested in receiving it.

So if you would like to keep up to date please take a look at our blog for more content.


Sorry Boris, you’re not spoiling our fun

Based on all the posts I’ve been seeing; I take it you get the picture of how to effectively work from home. Plot twist, this is NOT about working from home. While working is definitely important (Andy paid me to say that), I think it is equally important to stay engaged with your team; outside of virtual morning meetings and have a bit of fun.

Now let’s take it back to 8:30am on yesterday’s sunny Wednesday morning. I made my coffee, buttered (peanut buttered) my toast, and switched on my laptop. I peeped a calendar invite named “Team Night Out”, and thought it was a bit ambitious to already be planning this but rolled with it. Before I could click accept, I noticed it was for 6:00pm next Wednesday! I won’t lie, my initial reaction was, “how on earth…and really?! That’s the start of my 8-hour Netflix binge!”.

After reading the message saying, “Virtual team night out, go grab yourself a bottle of wine, expense it, and let’s have a boogie” (in my own words), I thought this was absolutely brilliant!!! Enjoying each other and the reason we are part of this company is critical during a time like this and is a great representation of why our values are drive, own, nurture and in this instance; enjoy.

We are all sat here focused so much on how to effectively work, how we are going to keep our jobs, how we are going to keep our candidates engaged, and focusing so much on the future. However, I haven’t seen anyone discuss the reality of still needing a work-life balance (besides afternoon yoga). I don’t know about you, but we sometimes enjoy a cold pint to wrap up the day in the office. It was so refreshing to see my managers still thinking about what makes Vertical Advantage, well, Vertical Advantage. Besides our services to clients and candidates; it’s our internal company culture (and one of the reasons I joined).

If your company isn’t doing this,  you can still get connected with millions of people around the world through virtual pub quizzes, virtual dance parties, and house party.

Working from home doesn’t have to be all work, work, work; we can still engage with our team and have a bit of fun in a time that doesn’t seem so fun. It is such a wonderful feeling to see my managers focus on something outside of just “business” and do something to bring the team together We are small but mighty.


Recruitment is Like My Refrigerator Lately… 

As the days go by, it appears I am going crazy (crazier). But with crazy comes creativity and the need for a laugh. My days have started to blend into one, but one thing is for sure, I pass that fridge about 100x a day and open it even more. While I sit here speaking to candidates, clients, and my colleague’s day in and day out, I’ve come to realize…recruitment is like my fridge!


  1. Even after the £60 shop, there isn’t much food in there

I’m sure everyone is feeling this right now…extra hungry, two breakfasts, dessert before dinner. I’m also sure many people are seeing a lack of jobs, especially in the world of recruitment. Candidates are coming in fast, but jobs are slowing down a bit. It is easy to open the fridge and think “nothing is in here, boring”. However, you can also open the fridge, get your creative cap on, and use that broccoli to make some soup. I personally immediately think of Deliveroo, but my pots and pans have seen the light of day over the past few weeks and it’s been a nice change. This (thankfully) leads me to my next point…


  1. You need to (try to) make something out of nothing

I’ll say it once I’ll say it again, we need to stay positive and get creative (hence this magical post) in the current situation. It is easy to fall into the hole of anxiety and negativity, but while we may not be placing as many people in jobs right now, or speaking to as many clients with hot roles, this is the time to network, to gain trust, to show our expertise (go crazy and use that mayo and ketchup together) and educate ourselves on what is really inside that fridge! Staying ahead of the curve, finding that new hot sauce, and continuing to build our relationships is crucial.

  1. The Condiments always save the day

I love condiments. Ketchup, mustard, mint mince, soy sauce, hot sauce…you name it. Avocado and cream cheese, marmite and butter, yum! I like to think of condiments as candidates. Sometimes we are so focused on the main course, we forget about what really gives us the flavour! While recruiting for jobs is essential for us to do ours, without the candidates, we wouldn’t be able to do anything, and everything would be so plain. Our candidates provide us with market knowledge about new roles, new companies, changes in the market, and most importantly – trust us to represent them. Sometimes it takes a few days to build this trust (a green banana that turns ripe 2 days later). Candidates are the peanut butter that holds the bread together…

  1. It gets warm if you leave the door open

Being proactive is essential in recruitment, especially right now. So many times I stand in front of the fridge staring into the glorious light and then “beep beep beep”, it’s getting too warm and I have to close it for a minute. By being open to new conversations, learning about new markets, speaking to hiring managers, candidates (junior and senior), and “leaving our doors open” (good one, I know), we are building these foundations, and it will pay off.

Now to provide some insight and give you a bit of clarity, I have created an appendix of different types of candidates, ergh, condiments below!

English Mustard Uncompromising, hard to get off of you, leaves a distinct smell, kicks you in the face, ruins most things but makes some things incredible.
Brinjal Pickle The mac daddy. Underappreciated, relatively unknown, not what you’d expect given where it comes from but an absolute blast on most things.
Hot sauce An acquired taste. Not for everyone, but if you like it, it will change your life. You never know when it’ll hit you and always keep you on your toes. You may think the taste has gone, and BAM, it’s back!
Mayonnaise Not much fun to look at, bit greasy, always smells a bit funky but is essential for living your best life. A great all-rounder, a good one to have available, but can be a bit wet.
Barbecue Combination of mayonnaise, onion, and mustard all in one. Bit more of a special occasion kind of guy. Easy to talk to, difficult to shake, worth the wait.

To be serious for a second, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask…what condiment are you? Feel free to mix them together and create your own! If I don’t hear from you, I’ll assume you’re NOT miracle whip.


FMCGs Big Opportunity – to leap or not to leap?

As we approach the end to the quarter and also, the end of the financial year for many businesses its really not the normal feeling of assessment of where the business is, where it is going & is the path we’re on the right one? Generally, there are lots of questions at this time of year but in 2020, those questions are very, very different. What we know is that the government is helping where it can to keep the wheels of the economy moving – assisting with measures such as furlough for the employed and self-employed, gives a period of greater parity in earnings for many workers who are affected by CV19 but will it be enough?

From a hiring perspective, we need to take a look into our short to medium term crystal ball (maybe it’s just a marble given the timeline!) and consider the impact of taking the ‘wait and see’ approach to the impact of CV19 within FMCG. We know that sales in most categories are up from a grocery / retail perspective and that the impact of fewer holidays, trips to a restaurant or bar, kids not going to school etc will mean it is likely there is more consumption to come over the next few months at least. So as bad as the current times are health-wise, we know some consumer goods businesses are out-performing the market yet, what we have seen in some situations, is some FMCG companies react with hesitancy and fear around hiring – ‘how will we interview?’, ‘will candidates want to take a job during a pandemic?’ or ‘how will we on-board / engage a new starter’, are all valid questions, however, I do think those businesses need to consider the impact of NOT hiring.

Let’s say you were intending to hire a Demand Planner or NAM today because of a vacancy in the team but you decide not to commence the search again until we return to the office & the ‘new normal’ goes back to being the old normal. Best estimates looking at a lot of the data/media on this seems to be a return to the office in June / July – pick a date, nobody knows.

What’s likely is that lockdown will continue in 2 /3 weeks chunks as no governments want to make a full commitment to an extended period of isolation – for social, fiscal and health reasons that just doesn’t make sense. So, we’ve peered back into that marble and we’re in mid-June, people have reacquainted themselves with where the photocopier is and we’re back to hiring – the sun is shining, kids are soon to be off school for the Summer and people have been locked up for 3 months…….. are they of a mind to leave their role now? It’s safe, their business kept them on during a downturn – will they turn there back on the employer who didn’t cut their pay or make them redundant? Sure, some will but many will kick that particular can down the road until September / October as least. So, your traditional hiring process of 4 – 6 weeks, may end up stretching to 8 – 12 weeks with the right candidate potentially on a 3 month notice period……… the maths on this means a job you have today, may well not be filled until January 2021 so then the real question is, ‘as a hiring manager, are you prepared to do the work of 2 people for the next 9 months?’

Back to my main barriers to hiring (above) – all of these things are being dealt with by dynamic businesses and business people across the globe & many, many internal roles / international moves happen via Skype / Zoom interviews outside of these surreal times.

Sure, onboarding remotely is a bit different and not ideal but we can be sure it’s a short term solution and again, if you consider our process – 4 – 6 weeks to hire and then a notice of up to 3 months……. Remote onboarding is unlikely to be an issue.

Lastly and I think this is the most important point – the talent is there now. Straight away. Ready & waiting to take a great opportunity. A business that is hiring today, sends a message of a strong, confident company that is taking the opportunity to hire the best in the market at a time where others don’t make the leap AND in FMCG there should be many more of those than in many other sectors.

Much is made of how opportunities arise in times of challenge – this is the hiring opportunity, are you going to take it or switch back to Netflix?


FMCG Hiring and the Coronavirus

Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen a marked shift in the FMCG & Consumer industry in the UK that in truth seems to be changing on a near-daily basis.

As one of the industries most in the eye of the storm, we have the privilege of supplying head office staff to over 30 of the top 50 businesses and as a consequence speak with many candidates and clients alike with privileged access to the decision-makers at the most senior level.


Here’s a quick overview of some of the policies taken:

Working from home / office:

Up until the middle of last week, most were taking an approach of isolating those who had been abroad or reported a temperature in the previous 14 days. From there we have seen businesses evolve predominantly into 2 / 3 main camps:

  1. A) Work from home indefinitely;
    B) Work from home for the next 2 weeks & take a view then;
    C) Work in 2/3 split shifts with groups of people rotating time in the office and time from home;


New starters:
Where people have been due to start this week, most businesses have made provisions to get them a laptop sent to them and engage people through Zoom / Skype for their on-boarding. Others have been slower to react here but have paid the new staff and promised to get them actively working ASAP as soon as IT is enabled etc. One top 10 Global FMCG business has made a provision for new starters to be met on their first day by their new line manager and then to have all the equipment needed to move to a home-based environment – planning the new starter/onboarding strategy is going to be key here.

We have had isolated cases of offers being withdrawn but these have tended to be with restaurant or hotel groups, not traditional consumer businesses or agencies / consultancies that support them.


Up until Friday businesses hadn’t made the call to switch to video / zoom interviews but now this is pretty much standard across the board for the first stage with 2nd / final interviews either to be conducted face to face or via Skype also – the view here is probably split 50/50 between our clients but we’d expect that figure to shift towards everything being done virtually as the days pass.


Our blue-chip clients are all comfortable at this stage making offers / moving processes forwards with SMEs being a little more varied in confidence however those with business models aligned to e-commerce or the FMCG space should take some solace in the fact things could potentially be a lot worse (e.g. travel, hospitality etc).

Hopefully, this helps a little when aligning what steps and actions your business has taken or could take.

I’ll issue an update over the next couple of weeks but please do keep an eye out for our content every couple of days where my colleague Siobhan Nutt aims to #dosomething for candidates by giving our top tips for a video interview and how to genuinely assess culture via a video call without asking ‘what’s the culture like?’

For access to all our content, please take a look at our website and / or follow us on LinkedIn.

If you think we can help advise you with your strategy or help you in finding talent during this time, please do reach out to me on or give me a call on 07792544887.



What is EVP and why is it the buzzword of 2020?

It stands for Employee Value Proposition.

Officially, it’s the salary, compensation and benefits that the employer pays to an employee who’s contracted to deliver skills, experience and productivity that further delivers the company’s business goals, mission, purpose and values.

EVP, in tandem with your Employer Brand, will be a key, determining factor attracting, retaining or losing talent from your organisation.

Why does EVP matter to businesses?
“78% of job seekers use social media for their job search” (Glassdoor) because they want to see if they will be a good fit in your company’s culture. So, if you’re not focusing on your sharing your EVP via these channels the majority of job seekers have already overlooked your company before they’ve even begun.

“In a market where 91% of job seekers think company culture is more important than salary and 80% of candidates consider employer brand when choosing where to apply, companies that have a strong EVP” (Pinpoint)

We’ve recently worked with clients in communications, social, tech, food, drinks and beauty sectors who find that they’re struggling with attracting the volume of quality candidates that they’d like and are increasingly looking inwards to make changes.  And we’re not the only ones hearing this from clients; we’ve recently met with LinkedIn and Glassdoor who said that their client companies’ primary concern is around EVP and making themselves more attractive to potential employees.

As recruiters we are spending increasing amounts of time with clients discussing EVP; what used to be an interesting conversation or “add-on” is now a central tenet of how we develop candidate attraction campaigns.

EVP/EB trends have ranged from empowerment and CSR, to pay and holidays, and currently the environment and social conscience. The breadth of information available to candidates from a variety of sources means that unless you are in control of your messaging, candidates will make decisions about working for you without attending an interview.  As recruiters, we used to persuade candidates to “just go and meet them” knowing that our clients would be appealing enough if we could only get them through the door, but most candidates now won’t invest time in a meeting if they don’t like what they’ve learned about you so far.

Even businesses who have traditionally been attractive to candidates have learnt that a well-stocked fruit bowl, the comfiest of all bean bags and an established brand are no longer enough for current or prospective employees who are deciding what their futures will look like.

“Candidates trust a company’s employees 3 times more than the company to provide credible information on what it’s like to work there.” (LinkedIn)

Companies common mistakes when trying to attract and retain:

  • Limited content (videos, picture, blogs) showcasing your culture on your website or social media channels
  • Few or bad ratings and reviews that are not addressed on Glassdoor, Google etc
  • No external/internal alignment on the company vision / poor brand ambassadors
  • Poor employer brand

In 2020, how can you enhance your profile?

  • Tell your full employer brand story (origins, visions, goals etc and how as a potential employee you can play a part in helping to achieve this)
  • Understanding what makes you unique – are you sharing this?
  • Conveying all your key selling points for your company (don’t assume people know this)
  • Showcasing why you’re a great place to work using dynamic content on your website, blog and social media feeds
  • Articulate this EVP clearly to both current employees and potential new recruits – ensure your internal team know and believe the points above – they are your greatest ambassadors
  • Showing your work: giving candidates a real view of how creative/interesting/challenging/meaningful your work is will resonate with the right candidate.

Need help?
We can help you clearly define your EVP so you can actively attract and retain the right talent.

Whether it’s a beautifully crafted “work for us” doc, Glassdoor review maintenance or your social media tone of voice, we can build a cohesive programme tailored to your company and your recruitment objectives. Oh, and we’re amazing at recruitment too!

Want more info?

Talk to me for an initial chat at



How VA weathered the choppy waters of 2019 and what’s next in 2020

2019. I genuinely can’t remember a more interesting year in my working life. Without a doubt, the markets Vertical Advantage operates within have been affected significantly by a stop-start economic backdrop, perforated with changing timelines for a decision on Brexit / the election, etc. Couple the macro-economic situation with changes in regulation, increased advancements in rec-tech and the market dynamics of the consumer space, it has meant this year has been one of the most unpredictable ever in Vertical Advantages 7-year history.

Thankfully we have a weathered the choppy waters of 2019 creating greater niche specialisms within the consumer space by creating a 3rd permanent division, separating E-commerce and Digital from our traditional Sales and Marketing business which is now lead by Siobhan Nutt, a vastly experienced leader who joined us in June. In addition to Siobhan, we have hired some exceptional talent from apprentice to senior manager level & can proudly say that both our business and our leadership team has never been more diverse.

I’m incredibly proud we have embedded our #DONE values further this year and have built a career progression structure, a highly developed PDP model and an evolving EVP we can be proud of. However, these are simply foundations from which Vertical Advantage should build on in the next 12 – 18 months and the team internally are under no illusions that our agenda is very much focused on strong growth within that time period.

What’s next?

I’ve never been a great believer in big predictions however, 2019 saw a marked shift in terms of the talent we attracted to the business and with further hires planned, our expectation is to continue to raise the bar with the talent we bring in to Vertical Advantage. Outside that, we want to do more for our clients, provide them with better data and more outside the box solutions to their traditional hiring problems. 2019 saw Vertical Advantage work more in Europe than ever before and there’s certainly a driver to continue that trend as our blue-chip client base strives for recruitment partners with greater reach.

I’m in awe of what Jo Miller, our Commercial Directors & the Vertical Advantage team has achieved this year commercially and am humbled by some of the exceptionally innovative clients who we have built new, genuine relationships with as well as our long term customer base who have continued to be loyal to us in the face of stiff competition.

Lastly, I’d like to thank the candidate pool we have represented in 2019 – recruitment businesses are under increasing pressure and scrutiny and without you trusting the consultants at Vertical Advantage to help you navigate the next step on your career path, we would not be in the position we’re in today. Having increased our Linked in following by 600% this year and had over 30 positive google reviews (averaging 5 stars!), I’m confident we’re on a good path to continue our journey on an upward trajectory in 2020.

Wishing everyone a very happy new year & let’s hope for a successful, collaborative and peaceful 2020!


All the best,



Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat – a newbies guide to working & parenting!

I’m part of several Whatsapp groups of new mummies (like myself) and lately, I’ve noticed a common recurring theme amongst the many topics we’ve covered – “how can I return to work when I’m still so tired?”

I’ve recently been blessed with a beautiful daughter, Joanna, and have come back off maternity leave into a new role, where naturally, I’ve felt the need to prove my ability. It’s been much more challenging than I initially expected it to be!

Finding the balance between work and home, making a good first impression after a rubbish night’s sleep or just generally being able to communicate and form sentences is tough. I’m amazed I’ve been able to put this article together at all!

But on a serious note, it can be tough going back to work as a new parent, whether it’s to a company you’ve been at for years or a brand new one, and a huge part of that challenge is – put simply – you don’t sleep as much as you used to!


Is this issue overlooked?

The Independent recently posted an article that new parents will get 4 hours and 44 minutes sleep per night on average in the first year of their baby’s life, just over half of what is recommended. And since we know that a consistent lack of sleep can lead to various physical and mental issues, why does this issue seem to be completely overlooked by the rest of the world and in particular, the workplace?

From high blood pressure to depression, a consistent lack of sleep can take its toll. A lack of ability to concentrate or increased irritability can lead to arguments with friends, colleagues or partners. My personal best is a recent pointless one-uppance type argument I had with my husband about who got up the most times last night – not proud of this one!

Yet, sleep deprivation can often be ignored as a serious cause of deterioration to mental health and wellbeing and can take you far away from feeling like the “normal” self you once knew!


The “normal” you

I love listening to witty stories from friends and colleagues who have done silly things after a sleepless night that the “normal” them would never have done. My wonderful boss, Andy Davies, as an example, has been known to enjoy the occasional Pot Noodle with warm baby formula after mistaking it for boiling water!

But what happens when these….errors in judgement begin to seep into the workplace?

Can you safely say that your employer, or at the very least, your line manager, would be supportive and fundamentally understand that this is not the “normal” you?

I’m so pleased that I seem to have found “that” company, who genuinely understand the importance of personal wellbeing and having a healthy work/life balance. I do wonder though, how many companies are this understanding and how easy are they to find?

Here’s what I did and what I would strongly advise any returning parent to do in order to probe potential (and current) employers on how they manage new working parents who are still finding their feet!


How to find those hidden gems

  1. ASK THEM!

Now, this one may seem obvious, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people will not probe companies on their policies around flexible working, working from home or sick leave, simply because “they’re scared to ask”.

Whether you’re speaking to your current manager or a potential employee, finding the answers to the following questions will help you massively in understanding whether this company will accommodate your new needs.

P.S. If you’re asking a potential employee, I would definitely recommend saving these questions for a final interview when you have slightly more buying power!

(And by the way…it’s ok to ask these questions – don’t be scared!)

  • What’s your approach to flexible working?
  • How many parents do you have in the company?
  • Do you have children?
  • How many other employees work from home? How often do they work from home?
  • What are my options if I’ve stayed up all night with the baby?

This is much easier said than done!

When you’ve been out of the game for a few months/years, it’s very easy to convince yourself that “you need them more than they need you”.

Well, this is just not the case anymore!

Lots of companies in the UK are struggling massively to find good talent at the moment.

So, even if they’re putting on a good poker face and throwing around the “it’s company policy” line, don’t be afraid to walk away IF their needs don’t match yours. Your priorities have changed now and that’s ok.

The right company WILL understand this and do their very best to accommodate you!



As a new parent, you will constantly be finding yourself in new situations with your baby…some of which had probably never occurred to you until they happen!

Maybe your child gets chickenpox? Or goes through a month-long sleep regression? Or starts nursery? Or you go back to work and realise that you miss your little one much more than you had ever expected you would?

Speak to your new or potential employer about how flexible your contract is if your personal situation changes.

Would they be able to increase or decrease your hours? Change your hours altogether? Put you in a new role?

There’s nothing worse than suddenly finding yourself in a situation where you feel like you are taking on too much and it’s not working for you or your family.

Remember, all of these things will help you balance your new life and new job much better. You don’t need to do it alone!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Are you a new parent returning to work? Or are you ready to return to work after maternity/paternity leave and share these concerns? Perhaps you are a manager yourself and have an opinion on how you would treat an employee-facing these issues?


Fixed term contracts or day rates – which option is better for your business?

I’ve been recruiting into the interim and contract market for well over eleven years now (man and boy) and things have changed over that time.

The interim market has changed even more since then, the day rate interim is becoming a rare breed with more organisations wanting to take on hires on a fixed term contract basis (FTC).

The FTC route is often assumed to be the easier option for organisations, it’s seen as cheaper, you can guarantee a filled job for a certain time.


Because you’ll get an equivalent candidate for the time you need them and you can use the same hiring techniques as you do for a permanent hire.

However, when you really examine the realities of cost and output it may not be more cost effective to hire a fixed term contract. Let’s look at the arguments in detail.

Myth 1: Fixed term contractors are cheaper than a day rate interim/temp
You might think that paying someone £50,000 for 12 months’ work is cheaper than paying someone £250 per day for the year?

One of the things people forget are the hidden costs associated with a salaried role; car, bonus, holiday pay, sick days (did you know that an average Britain takes off 7 days a year in sick leave!), employer’s national insurance, office costs, pensions, training days, the list goes on and on.

Taking these costs into account an average employee costs about double the actual salary so £100K + the recruitment costs. A day rate employee, on the other hand, works about £70,000 per year if you include the agency costs.

You also only pay the days the day rate employee actually works as opposed to effectively paying for your fixed term contract a year in advance.

Myth 2: A day rate temp may not stay for the full length of the contract
We all have the impression that candidates who work day rate are mercenaries and will move elsewhere if they find something that pays more.

I agree that does happen but you can build in guarantees by paying a completion bonus if someone adequately completes the full length of the contract.

I think the fickle interim argument is a little defunct nowadays, most senior interims are professionals who know that their work is their reputation, and have chosen to be career interims as opposed to working as temps until they secure a permanent position. If they agree to a contract they usually see it to the end otherwise they will pick up a reputation they don’t need.

Myth 3: It’s easier to recruit fixed-term contractors (I can use the same methods as permanent recruitment)
Yes, you can use the same process as recruiting a permanent person but I think you have to ask yourself who actually wants to work a fixed term contract?

The nature of an FTC means that you will get professionals who are in between permanent jobs, cannot get a permanent job or are on a working holiday visa.

You cannot offer them the security and neither can they to your organisation.

Employing someone on a day rate allows you access to a completely different market, interims aren’t candidates who can’t get a permanent job but it is a lifestyle choice for most.

This is a market who have taken a conscious decision to work on an interim basis, whether it’s a lifestyle choice, professional integrity, the variety or a number of different reasons.

Interims are a flexible resource to use them as you see fit whether it is to up-skill a team, take on projects, take the pressure off yourself or any other reasons.

They are used to working in an environment where a job spec is not always present and their role is not clearly defined.

You can usually expect an interim to hit the ground running and even perhaps help you define a future permanent role or skills gap in your team.

Myth 4: Interims are too expensive
A marketing interim will not help you do your finances, but you do not pay for an interim straight away.

The agency will bill you on their invoice cycle and so you get the interim to do a job which you do not pay for straight away.

When you take on a candidate who is a contractor you pay the agency the fee upfront, you don’t know how good they are until they start working for you.

If they don’t work out or leave before their contract is up you’ve already paid for this person. You will need to pay for someone new if the role needs to be completed.

With an interim, you pay after the interim has done that day’s work so you are paying for performance to a certain degree. Most of the time you will pay for the temp a month after they have worked.

For a small business, this is a great way to spread the cost of an employee, it is effectively getting interest free credit for employing someone.

Making the right choice for your business or team
From my experience of the interim market and speaking to clients and candidates alike I would say that there are few scenarios where an FTC is better than an interim.

A good benchmark is to ask yourself if the contract is going to be longer than 12 months in length, if the answer is no or it is uncertain, then a day rate interim would be the best choice

Interims can bring a huge amount of experience into a business who would normally may not be able to support someone at that level.

These interims can sometimes be a shot in the arm for business and their presence can still be felt long after they leave.

There are occasions where businesses do not consider the use of interims because of the disruption to the team and clients, but the cost of not having someone in that position maybe even greater.

With these things considered why would an interim not be a viable option?

I’d love to hear thoughts from employers or professionals about this topic and if you have more questions drop me an, I’d love to chat!


The lies behind counter offer myths exposed

There’s an ongoing debate in every industry over counter offers.

Should you turn them down or should you take them? And are you damaging your career if you stay?

Should you always believe what your recruitment consultant tells you?

Or sometimes are they simply saying what they NEED YOU to hear?

Does the looming potential of lost commission have an impact on the advice you get?

With all these questions circulating, it’s clear to see that many people are confused over what the right move actually is.


What makes it harder is sometimes you might not feel your recruitment is always honest by peddling these myths.

Here at Vertical Advantage, we see no advantage in pulling a wool over the eyes of our clients and job seekers.

We believe that the more transparent the process is, the happier and successful everyone is all round.

So, in order to give you a bit of clarity, we’ve deconstructed the 4 most common counter offer myths.

Myth #1 – Say yes and your manager will still think you’re disloyal
When a good employee resigns, an employer might try to get them to stay – not just because they’re valuable to the business, but because recruiting a replacement takes time and money and it’s easier to keep the person they have.

Your recruitment consultant might tell you that if you take the offer, your boss will (secretly or not so secretly) think you’re disloyal and that it will have a negative impact on working in the company.

This just isn’t always true.

Working for a company is a two-way street – if your boss offers you a counter offer it’s because they NEED you in the here and now and if they are going to be able to manage you, they’ll need to let go of any bad feeling.

Remember: They gave you the chance to stay and you took it – so there is no value in them harbouring any belief that you’re disloyal.

Myth #2 – Say yes and your internal reputation is damaged beyond repair
You might be thinking that if you take the counter offer your colleagues will turn against you. You might have had this fear confirmed by your recruitment consultant.

Think about it this way:

At some point in their career, most, if not everybody, in your team will have explored the job market.

Your colleagues may also have been given the chance to stay for a better package and experience.

Even if they didn’t take the counter offer, there’s a high chance they considered it.

So, they are likely to understand your position.

Moving jobs and progressing your career is par for the course – nobody stays forever and never looks around. Your colleagues know this too.

Myth #3 – Say yes and you’ll be first out the door if there’s a restructure
When it comes to a company restructure there will be a massive range of reasons behind any decision of who goes and who stays.

If you are proving your worth to the business, there’s no reason to think that because you once looked externally, you’d be pushed out if the time comes.

It’s important to view a restructure for what it is – a wider business decision – and not an opportunity for your boss to get revenge.

Myth #4 – Say yes and you’ll resign in a few months anyway
There are statistics that come up often which suggest that people who accept counter offers will resign not long after.

This can imply that accepting is pointless.

However, statistics are always open to interpretation.

Even if people end up resigning later, it doesn’t prove that it was wrong to stay.

A decision has to be made based on the scenario at that point in time and stats like this are purely a snapshot of a much wider, more complex decision.

Now the lies behind the counter offer myths have been exposed:

Should you stay or should you go?

No two situations are the same and sometimes accepting the counter offer could be the right move for you.

The resignation / counter offer scenario could be an opportunity for an honest conversation with your boss. The real positive is that if underlying issues are resolved it makes perfect sense to stay where you are.

But think what this says about the state of your relationship with your boss.

Should it really take handing in your notice to get their attention?

Rather than seeing this as a chance to start an open conversation, perhaps it’s really a sign that your relationship isn’t as strong as you thought it was and shows that moving on is the RIGHT step to take.

Also, are there any issues which a counter offer simply couldn’t fix?

Hard facts like a daily commute being too long just can’t be solved with a counter offer of more money or responsibility, so if points like this were bothering you, moving on stands out as the clear choice.

When it comes to counter offers, ideally, it’s better to avoid the situation in the first place.

The best way to make this happen is to address any frustrations you have BEFORE you find yourself itching for a new job.

Think in depth about your career – could you achieve your goals where you are or do you need to move?

Knowing what you want out of your career and your personal tipping point will help avoid the counter offer scenario before it even starts.

If you’re swinging more towards accepting a counter offer, here’s 3 influencers to consider

In a counter offer scenario, there are 3 very different factors at play.

The politics of your company will influence their actions – perhaps they made a counter offer because they can’t afford to recruit somebody new?

Your boss might want to counter offer because they don’t want the hassle of sourcing a new replacement.

Your recruitment consultant may be encouraging you to accept the new offer so they can fulfil their client brief.

So, where does this leave you?

If you’re in the middle.
With these influencing factors, it can be hard to fully evaluate the situation.

Only you are at the centre of any counter offer situation and only you can decide the best move for your career.

If you feel stuck, make the most of your recruitment consultant.

While they want to deliver for their client, good consultants also want to deliver for their candidate.

If your consultant is honest and transparent (and doesn’t feed on the myths mentioned they can provide insightful feedback which could help you see the bigger picture.


How to cut the unconscious bias from your hiring process in 5 simple steps

In 2011, researchers at Columbia Business School uncovered a link between hunger and parole. So far, so innocuous, right?


In fact, it was discovered that the chances of a prisoner receiving parole were, in effect, directly related to the hunger levels of the judge hearing their case. The hungrier the judge, the lower the prisoner’s chances.

This is just one—particularly worrisome—example of something called unconscious (or hiring) bias, which can and does affect everyone at one point or another.

But what is unconscious bias and how can you work to cut it from your hiring process?

What is Unconscious Bias?
Put simply, unconscious bias is when your internalised preconceptions and judgements affect your rational decision making. This can cause you to take other things (often entirely irrelevant things) like weight, skin colour, marital status, gender, age, and more, into account, when what you should really be considering are things like experience and personality instead.

Here are just a few examples of common hiring bias ‘logic’:

  • Affinity: ‘that person also loves craft beer, they must be great!’
  • Halo effect: ‘that person went to Oxford, they must be great!’
  • Familiarity: ‘that person is just like me, they must be great!’
  • Anchoring: ‘that person is paid bucket loads, they must be great!’ (Alternatively, ‘that person is paid pittance, they must be rubbish.’)

As you can imagine, unconscious bias can be especially problematic for hiring managers, who are tasked with making value judgments on a daily basis.

And when you consider the cross-section of people typically affected by unconscious bias—like women, people of colour, and disabled people—it’s easy to see how unconscious bias can undermine company-wide diversity.

With that in mind, here’s how recruiters can work to eliminate, or at least minimise as far as possible, unconscious bias in the hiring process.

How to Cut Unconscious Bias from the Hiring Process

1. Educate yourself on unconscious bias
Congrats! You’ve already mastered step one just by reading this post. But don’t get complacent! I might have touched on some key things to be conscious of (get it?) when it comes to hiring biases, but it’s on you to pin down everything that could be affecting your recruitment process.

And don’t be afraid to call yourself out along the way. After all, unconscious bias is just that: unconscious. We’ve all fallen prey to its insidious charms at one point or another. The trick is to address is face on, actively working to remove it from the hiring process. (Instead of, you know, pretending it doesn’t exist…)

2. Try some awareness training
This leads on from the above. Once you’ve brushed up on the concept of unconscious biases and recognised which ones you might be guilty of, get the rest of the company on the bandwagon. With awareness training, you can work through your own biases while learning how to combat them on a day-to-day basis.

3. Make sure your job ads are worded inclusively
One of the easier steps when it comes to removing unconscious bias from the hiring process is at the job ad stage. Do you use the -man suffix more than you should? Are you using ‘masculine’ language, like ‘fearless’, which may deter women candidates? If so, you might be putting off applicants before they’ve even typed up a cover letter.

4. Remove information which lends itself to unconscious bias
Age, gender, race, religion, even names! Before sifting through your stack (or, more accurately, inbox full of) applications, remove any identifying and possible bias-bringing info. That way, you can consider each and every applicant objectively (at least until the interview round, anyway).

This is one tactic that’s already proved popular with several businesses. Vodafone removed gender from CVs to see whether it was related to the comparative lack of women in tech roles. Ernst & Young no longer requires graduate applicants to include any educational details for similar reasons. Meanwhile, a northern tech company, Bytemark, have had a completely anonymous application system since about 2015, but they openly admit there is still work to be done.

It seems important to mention that at Vertical Advantage we encourage people who are interested in joining our business to get in touch without attaching a CV. We’re also more than happy to interview based on an email or phone introduction only.

5. Tag-team the interview process
Once you’ve worked out the unconscious bias kinks in your advertising and interview selection process, it’s time to do what you can for the interview step. Obviously, this is where things can get tricky as interviews tend towards the subjective.

However, one option includes bringing in more team members in order to get a balanced perspective on the candidate. And it goes without saying that the interviewers should be as diverse and spectrum-spanning as possible.

These are just some starting points for eliminating hiring bias in your recruitment process, although I must say that I think the Australian initiative Recruit Smarter is really getting it right when it comes to removing unconscious bias where possible. I’d love to see the UK take note!

So, candidates and hiring managers, alike: how do you deal with unconscious bias throughout the hiring process?