Thursday, 1 March 2018

Uniquely You - why your own USP is as important of those you create for your firm

For every marketer and business development (BD) professional, mastering the four Ps is week-one stuff.
We learn that putting the right product - or combination of products - in the right place at the right time and at the right price is essential and that a business can peg its USP on this to afford it an advantage in the market place and against its competitors. We also know that without it, a business will inevitably fail. Marketers constantly strive to answer the question “what can I do to offer a better product to this group of people than my competitors?” and work out what differentiates their business from the competition. But in a competitive marketplace that remains fiercely candidate-led this also applies to YOU as an individual. It goes without saying you need to promote and sell your personal USPs. And if you’re already doing this, you need to do it better.
You already have an edge. Out of everyone looking for a job, developing your USP is something you should be able to do best. Think about how the concepts you have learnt along the way can be applied to making yourself stand out from the crowd. So as well as making sure your CV is concise, accurate and well-presented you also need to ask yourself some other important questions.
Why should an employer hire you? To help uncover your USP, put yourself in potential employers’ shoes, step back and carefully scrutinise what your “customer” might actually want. You must create the right product mix just as you would when marketing a professional service or a product. Think about what the “client” would want from the “service” or “product” (i.e. you). What features must the product have to meet the client’s needs? How will it be used? What does the product look like? How is the product different from your competitors? Ask yourself what you can do to offer a better product. To develop a deep understanding of your target market you need to be an amateur psychologist. What is motivating the recruitment process? How is the sector doing? If you’re up for interview with a particular firm, are they growing, or merging with another? Is it listed? How’s its share price doing? Yes, they might be looking for a new appointment within the marketing or BD team, but exactly why are they looking? Go beyond the normal online search and do a bit more digging – for example at old press articles, financial data and annual reports. You’ll be surprised how much more you can learn about a company. If there’s a vacancy you’re interested in do you know anyone who has worked there or is working there? If you do, don’t hang back from making contact. You’re likely to have a more open view of what it’s like to work at that firm. Similarly, remember, it’s only one person so don’t base all your opinion on that viewpoint, just bear it in mind and judge overall.
If you’re using an established recruitment agency, they’ll play a vital role as they’ll have a strong knowledge of both sectors and firms and if you’d be a good fit. They’ll only be putting you forward for specific roles that are suitable and where they know you’ve a much better chance of success.
So all knowledge from whichever source is useful. Finding out more about the past will help you understand the point the company has got to in its present incarnation. And ask yourself what benefits you’d bring to the firm and sell yourself as someone who can add value.
What are your distinguishable skill sets? List the skills and experience you have that are required in the job you are seeking and think of strong examples to talk through at interview. As well as the “technical” skills it’s really important to think about “softer” areas such as communication and dealing with people, time and project management as well as your ability to build strong working relationships. It sounds obvious, but there is only one you and - for most firms - having the right personality fit is hugely important so use this to your advantage.
Do you have any specific industry/sector experience? Think about “place” within your personal marketing four Ps. Understanding your target market better will mean you’ll understand which industries will be of most interest and which will have the most relevance.
Are there any other sectors in which you’ve worked that allow you to demonstrate skills that would crossover? What achievements can you demonstrate or challenges have you faced that are relevant? Different industries will have different issues, different working practices and different challenges so having an in-depth understanding of a particular sector will almost certainly set you apart.
How can you best promote yourself? If you think about how important promotion is to boost sales and brand recognition in order to stand out from the crowd then you’ll also need to make sure you have a strong social media profile. Use LinkedIn as a way of showcasing your unique experience and skills. Ask colleagues for testimonials so that if a prospective employer looks at your page they are impressed and keen to find out more. If you use any other social media channels, then be sure they aren’t full of the wrong kind of “promotion”! We all have social lives but use social media to your advantage, not your disadvantage. What salary are you looking for? Determining the survival of any business or service is “price”. As a hugely important part of the marketing mix, price defines the perception of your product. Exactly like you’re your firm’s clients, your potential employer is looking to see what they will get for their money.
Price yourself well. You don’t want to ask for too little a salary to appear inferior - or too much and seem as if the costs might outweigh the benefits. Price accordingly dependent on what your demand and experience is and again, listen to your recruitment agency. If they know their stuff, they’ll have extensive knowledge of salary scales within the sector and will put you forward for roles within a correct bracket. You won’t be the right fit for every firm so don’t feel despondent if some of your applications aren’t successful. Every firm is looking for a different set of attributes and expertise. But by working out what your USP is, using the marketing skills you already have and finding a specialist recruitment agency to add value to your search you’ll be able to find the perfect job in the perfect working environment for you as an individual.

Victoria Capsey, Director

Friday, 8 December 2017

How to Leave a Job Gracefully

Many people can be put off leaving a job because they find it difficult. Handing in your notice can be tricky and there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to do it. So once you've definitely made up your mind it's time to go, how should you leave your current role?
Like Richard Branson says, "You should build bridges, not burn them", and if you've worked hard to build professional relationships you need to be smart about how you manage those - you never know whose path you'll cross later down the line!

You must remain professional and think about your future. So nurture those relationships, think ahead and try and leave that door open.

Try to be flexible about your notice and willing to work a bit longer if necessary, especially if you've not got a firm start date yet for your next role. You don't want to hang around, but handing in your notice also doesn't mean to have to exit the building immediately. Be as reasonable and as helpful as possible.

On the other hand, your employer shouldn't make you feel disloyal because you've decided to make a move. You don't have to fall out with your current employer because you've handed in your notice. Be polite and professional. And if they do try to make you feel bad, rise above it, keep your dignity and work out your notice with your head held high.

You should have a good resignation letter and give it to the right people, in the right order. Put it in writing and deliver it personally. Don't let your Manager hear you're leaving from someone else within the organisation. Obviously, you'll have a discussion about how you're going to work out your notice, but you also can have input into how this is going to be communicated within the organisation, so don't forget to think about this before you hand on your notice.

Be transparent and open about where you are moving on to. Don't tell one person one thing and someone another. It will all come out in the wash, especially if you're no longer there. And you don't want people thinking you were dishonest or secretive.

If you have an exit interview, don't vent every last detail about what you didn't like about your firm. Although it's technically the time to be totally open about your time at the company, you probably don't want to be brutally honest about everything. You need to be diplomatic. Being uncensored about the firm's downsides are going to do very little for you at this point - you're leaving anyway, and you're also not obliged to do this. You want to leave on an amicable note, not dwelling on all the things about the business that didn't work for you.

Victoria Capsey

Thursday, 23 November 2017

How to Write a Great CV

As the first opportunity to tell an employer what you can do, your CV is a vital part of your job search.

The professional services sector specifically is a highly specialised and competitive sector and the following are a few tips on how to present yourself on paper:

• Format - the majority of professional services firms now use extranets to accept and review applications.  A large part of our role at Leighton Taylor is to effectively manage these systems and processes.  In order to ensure accuracy, we recommend that CVs are produced in Word format as PDFs are not accepted.

• Length – the recommended length of your CV will really vary depending on your level of seniority.  As an Executive or below, we advise a CV of no more than 2 pages, at Manager or above try not to exceed 4 pages.

• Layout – this is a marketing document about yourself so as a marketer, it's got to shine!
  • List everything in reverse chronological order.
  • Keep it concise and easy to read by using clear spacing and bullet points. This allows employers to skim your CV and quickly pick out the important information.
  • Always use a professional font, such as size-10 Arial.
    Attention to detail is key with these types of firms, there should be no spelling or grammatical mistakes.
• Integrity - never lie on your CV. Professional services firms now outsource much of the post offer checks so any in discrepancies will be discovered.  Omit anything that could be seen as controversial or isn't relevant.

What to include:
• Contact details - Include your full name, home address, mobile number and email address (we need all of this information in order to make your applications), however, please note that when your application is sent to each client, your contact details will be omitted so that all future correspondence is managed through us.  You do not need to include your date of birth or a photograph! 

• Profile - Placed at the beginning of the CV, a profile is a concise statement that highlights your key attributes. Pick out a few relevant achievements and skills, while clearly articulating your career aims within the Professional Services sector.  Keep it short and snappy.

• Education - Professional services firms are extremely academic environments so prospective employers will be very interested in seeing a good education and training. It is important to list these with the most recent first and generally, you would include this towards the end of your CV (after your work experience), unless you are a graduate looking for your first job.

• Work experience - List your experience in reverse chronological order, clearly bullet pointing your experience. If you have plenty of relevant work experience, this section should come before education.
  • Begin with the most important elements of your experience such as strategy, planning and budget/team management. Work your way down to broader responsibilities.
  • Highlight anything you feel could distinguish you from other candidates. For example if you are a business development specialist, point out proven bid management or key account responsibilities.
  • Repeat this process for your different roles and make a judgement on the detail you need to go into. It is likely that your most recent roles will be the most relevant to your application. If you are a senior candidate you will not need to go into detail about your first marketing assistant role but make sure it is in your CV so there are no gaps.
• Skills and achievements - This is where you can talk about the foreign languages you speak and the IT packages you can competently use. Whatever you list should not be over-exaggerated, as you'll need to back up your claims at interview!

• Interests - Simply writing 'socialising, going to the cinema and reading' isn't going to catch the Hiring Manager's attention. However, when relevant to the job, your interests can provide a more rounded picture of you and give you something to talk about at interview. Examples include writing your own blog.

Writing your CV is always a daunting task but if you follow these tips preparing your CV can be a hugely beneficial journey as it will remind you of specific skills, experience and examples that you had forgotten or take for granted. It will illustrate why you are particularly suitable for a role and will provide you with the confidence and mind-set for success during your future interviews.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Leighton Taylor Summer Report 2017


As we reflect upon a busy year so far, the market remains buoyant.

At Leighton Taylor we like keep our clients as up to date as possible with current market trends, so here are our key points from both a client perspective that we feel would be very useful to take into account moving forward to the latter half of 2017.  

1. How has the recruitment market within the professional services sector been so far this year?
Despite the turbulent political landscape of first half of the year, fortunately the market still remains very strong. Vacancies of all levels are coming in on a regular basis and candidates are still very active in the market. Director level vacancies are fewer, but indeed there are fewer Directors within the marketplace. Firms are recruiting successfully but it is always increasingly competitive for them to source good quality candidates. The market remains very 'Candidate led' – meaning there are more opportunities out there than available, relevant candidates. Very strong candidates may have a number of options to choose from so we would always encourage clients to be quick, flexible & efficient throughout their recruitment processes. Time is always of the essence.

2. What specific candidate or skill shortages have we seen when recruiting in the past 6 months?
We are seeing an increase of broader/hybrid roles particularly in the legal sector. Resource, Programme and Business Manager Positions which often spread across different BD, HR, Finance and IT departments are becoming more common and candidates will often need to be found from other sectors.  Focused roles such as pitch, PR or Digital continue to be difficult to source, purely due to a sheer lack of candidates with these specialist skills. If you can consider candidates with a broader skillset who are looking to move into a specialist role, you'll have a stronger chance of filling the role quickly. Due to the growth of CRM (Account Management) teams in firms over the last few years, in contrast to previous years, we've noticed that there are a lot more CRM (account management) candidates who are looking for their next role.

3. How can firms secure the best candidates?
The million dollar question. Be quick! The firms that have longer recruitment processes and take longer to come to a decision, lose out on the best candidates. We see it happen time and time again, and both firms and candidates are disappointed. Firms shouldn't expect a long shortlist of candidates but should move quickly on strong/relevant candidates as they present themselves. It really is the key to firms securing the better candidates. Also:
• If you are using agencies, think carefully about who you using, and how experienced the consultants are in the sector. The more experienced consultants will be able navigate the recruitment campaign more effectively and are more likely to have access to those few outstanding candidates.
• Provide as much information on the roles as possible and as much feedback on candidates. It helps to keep the candidates positive about your firm and helps the agencies to pinpoint the right people.
• Provide as much notice and availability as possible for interviews. Candidates can afford to be selective so those firms that make it easier for them by providing interview timings that suit, are most likely to be top of their list. We are still getting firms that are expecting candidates to make themselves available for interviews in the middle of the working day and with 24-48 hours' notice. Candidates have to be flexible but they are often having to navigate full-times roles and suspicious line-managers.
• Sell the role during the interview process. Yes it is the time to really find out about a person and that can mean in-depth questioning and a challenging format, but also the applicant needs to come away thinking this is a firm and culture that they want to work in.
• If you are recruiting directly, don’t make the fundamental mistake of not controlling the response. We speak to many good candidates who have had bad experiences in the past with certain firms where they have been left up in the air with no response and feedback. They are unlikely to reconsider that firm.

4. Other market trends
• Over the past 6 months, we have definitely seen hiring managers wanting more for their money. They have higher expectations on a candidate's experience but often will not offer the requisite increase on the financial side. Despite advice from agencies, it can create false starts in the recruitment process often until candidates have been interviewed and there is then a realisation that there needs to be flexibility on salaries. By that point it may be too late!
• We have highlighted previously the necessity for flexibility in the work place and it is good to see some professional services firms really take this on board by offering agile/flexible working practices. There are still far too many however who miss out on very strong candidates because they can't offer the flexibility required from Day 1. The firms who do embrace it, stand to get highly loyal and motivated people who actually end up putting in more time to make up for the flexibility. Those organisations are seen in the market place as forward-thinking businesses that people actually want to work for. You undoubtedly get back what you put in.
• The Counter Offer! Something again we have talked about previously and it seems that these situations are being handled more effectively as potential employers and their recruiters are more aware of this issue. It is still happening though, so it still essential to keep in close contact with new joiners throughout their notice periods.

5. How is the market looking for the next 6 – 12 months and why?
The hope is that politically the next 6 months will be much calmer than the previous 12. Given that the market has remained strong (despite what has been going on), we don’t envisage any major changes in demands or access to talent in the near future. Apart from at the most senior levels (Director/Head of roles), the volume of roles will continue to outnumber strong candidates. Hopefully though professional services clients will continue to adapt and work with a 'candidate led' market.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Professional Services Marketing & BD Recruitment Autumn Report 2016

Historically, Leighton Taylor has compiled a market report every 6 months – one at the start of the year and one half-way through. This year we felt compelled to wait a little longer to take in the Brexit effect.  
Here are our key points from both a candidate and client perspective that we feel would be very useful to take into account moving forward to the latter half of 2016.    

  1. How has the recruitment market within the professional services sector been post-Brexit?

It’s important to note that in the first half of 2016, the market was incredibly strong. Vacancies of all levels were coming in on a daily basis. When the vote to leave was confirmed, from a recruitment point of view, it was a case of sitting with bated breath to see how firms would react and if recruitment would go on hold.

What has actually transpired is very interesting. Immediately after the vote, we had real a wave of activity and with above average numbers of new roles coming in. We then had a couple of weeks of reflection, where internal discussions were taking place. A few existing roles did go on hold (for the Summer) but more often than not we were being told that it was business as usual and that in fact extra resource may be required. It has stayed that way through August (which is generally a bit quieter) with a steady stream of new and replacement roles coming through. Our advice to candidates (where we could also detect some caution) is that it still remains a very good time to look with plenty of opportunities out there, so don’t hold back on starting a job search. 

  1. So it remains a candidate-led market?

Yes it is. There are still more opportunities out there than available, relevant candidates.  Clients who are recruiting need to remain flexible and responsive in their approaches to CV processing, interviews and creating quicker turnarounds. Those that are happy to let strong candidates go because there may be others around the corner, quite simply, will not be recruiting the best of the best.  

  1. What specific candidate or skill shortages have we seen when recruiting in the past 6 months?

Specialist roles such as KAM, pitch, PR or Digital, continue to be difficult to source, particularly as expectations rise and rise internally.  

  1. How is the market looking for the next 6 – 12 months and why?

Brexit actually came at a good time of year as far with regard to recruitment. During the summer months, it has given individuals who were worried more time to discuss and reflect on how to move forward without losing prime recruitment time. The feeling is that the market’s building up to a very busy few months ahead, with the vast majority of clients stating that their recruitment plans remain pretty much the same, and in some cases, busier. 

  1. Other market trends

The last few months has seen much talk about flexibility in the work place within professional services firms. Many firms claim to offer agile working practices but far fewer actually carry this through. We are often coming across very strong candidates who can’t apply for certain roles because they require a certain amount of flexibility, whether it’s a day at home or having flexibility to do some of the school runs.  It’s a real shame because in a market that needs candidates, there are some out there who are stuck because of their personal circumstances. We cannot stress enough, the firms who do embrace it, stand to get highly loyal and motivated people who actually end up putting in more time to make up for the flexibility. It’s good PR for those organisations too, as they’re regarded as forward-thinking businesses that people actually want to work for. You will get back what you put in. 

We mentioned the increase in counter offers in our last report as another symptom of the battle for talent and this remains the case. Potential employers and their recruiters appear to be more aware of it now so can try and counteract any possibility of this before it is too late. Our view remains that if you are candidate being counter-offered or a firm attempting to keep someone with an increased salary; it will only be a short-term fix for both sides. It’s only delaying the inevitable. 

  1. Leighton Taylor’s blueprint to a successful recruitment process

  • If you are using agencies, don’t use too many and provide as much information as possible from the outset. An experienced agency will be able to distinguish a good culture between client and applicant.
  • Client Extranet Systems – We completely understand the need for these but every recruitment agency will say, it is essential to keep a good dialogue as well. Good candidates can be easily be lost in a pile so ensure that the line managers are aware that the interview selection process is fast, efficient and uncomplicated. Quick feedback is critical.
  • Both sides need to be as flexible as possible with interview timings.  Applicants need to show as much willing as they can (without drawing attention) but clients also need to understand that it is getting harder and harder to get out of work to attend interviews during the working day. Interviews at 7:30am and 6:30pm are not unusual anymore.
  • Research, Research, Research.  Some of the most common feedback we receive is that a candidate didn’t do enough research for the interview. We don’t think you can ever over-prepare and we will provide extensive notes on how to do this and what to expect.
  • More than ever the interview has to be a two way process. Well briefed interviewers and partners who don’t just question the candidates but also sell the merits of firm to candidates who will be comparing roles. Interviews can still be testing but shouldn’t be at all aggressive.  

 In summary, as we move into a very busy autumn period, it’s business as usual and a good time to both recruit (if processes are good) and to look for roles. The market outlook remains positive.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

One week on. How the referendum affects your job search.

The vote to leave the EU last week has obviously caused a lot of uncertainty in the markets, with the pound suffering (although recovering a little), no clear leadership in sight and a lot of general anxiety and unrest across the nation.
It’s not for us to state what’s right or wrong or try to predict what might happen in the future, but if you’re a candidate looking (or thinking about looking) for new marketing and business development roles in the professional services sector, here are our thoughts on the last week and how you might be affected:
The general (early) consensus seems to be that actually a significant number of professional services firms could be in even higher demand by their clients, providing advice on how to negotiate the months (and perhaps years) ahead. This is particularly the case for law and accountancy firms, many who had pre-planned for Friday’s result by providing 24 hour advice straight away afterwards.
For property and management consultancies it is less clear and the real estate sector especially could be more seriously affected (as investments go on hold) but it is too early to tell. What we can say is that the first week post- Brexit has been very much business as usual.
In fact, over the past 6 or 7 days we’ve seen an above average number of new roles registered with us across all types of professional partnership and all levels from Assistant to Director. Encouragingly some of these have been new clients to us with brand new positions. There don’t appear to have been any knee jerk reactions and we haven’t had any reports of existing roles suddenly going on hold. If anything, there are mutterings that firms might need to increase their marketing, BD teams and other non-fee earning teams.
So our message to anyone either actively on the market or thinking about looking for a new role is that: we know it’s early days but as we stand, nothing has changed and it remains a good and strong market for Professional Services marketers. Long may it continue!

Giles Taylor

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


If clients contact us and they are struggling to fill their roles, one of their main reasons for rejecting people at first interview is that they didn’t do enough research on the firm and so couldn’t talk knowledgeably during the meeting. Some candidates think they can simply have a quick look at the job spec, then the company online and head off to the interview - job done.
That’s all that’s needed? Right? Wrong.
Candidates are losing out on roles that they’re more than qualified for because they are overlooking doing proper research on their potential employer. If candidates don’t know enough about the company during the interview, they can kiss the job goodbye – even if they are qualified to the hilt for it. An interviewer wants to know that you want to work for that firm and if you’re not sufficiently prepared, you won’t progress.

Doing your homework about the firm you’re interviewing at should be a lot more in depth than a quick online browse.
Where Should You Be Looking And What Should You Be Looking For?

First stop, obviously the company’s website. You need to know what the organisation does. What is the company’s mission statement? Where are they located? Are they International? Find out specific areas of business, services or products that the firm is involved with.
Find out who runs the firm. Who makes up the management team, the Board, who are the partners and what do they specialise in? Who will be interviewing you? Do you know their names? What do you know about the people of the firm? Also try and find out how they go to market and how the role fits in – is it sector or practice driven or a bit of both.

Look at LinkedIn for even more information about both the company and the people that work there. What is being said about them on social networks? Can you find any common ground or interests with those who will be interviewing you? Clearly, you shouldn’t claim to have won the 2010 European Waterskiing Championship when you’ve only waterskied a few times, so don’t exaggerate or invent things - but if you know the person interviewing you is into waterskiing, there you go – some common ground to make small talk and also show that you have a life outside of work!
At senior management level, your knowledge should always also extend to financial data, corporate culture, structure, company history, market knowledge and any recent news. And that’s not a bad recommendation either for anyone else not at that level. It’s always good to know too much than too little.

Have a look and see what general coverage or industry news your potential employer has had? Newspapers and trade journals are the best place research but, remember, for some of these such as: or, you might have to have an online subscription. So if you’ve got any friends who subscribe to industry publications, then don’t be shy asking if you can borrow them. Again, if you’ve friends in the sector, ask them about the firm you’ll be interviewing at. What are their perceptions or the firm? Do they know anyone there?
Don't forget to prepare your own questions as well. Think about what you're likely to be asked and don't forget the old line, 'its a two-way street'. You will be expected to ask some questions about the firm, so make sure they are well thought out.

All of this information could be very useful in an interview as you can never be sure exactly what you’ll be asked.

As recruitment consultants, it’s our view that you can never be over-prepared for an interview. You may not always use all the research you’ve done at first stage but it’s better to have the knowledge than to not have done the research and be left struggling to answer questions from your interviewers.

Colette Norfolk, Leighton Taylor Consulting