As part of my job I often I get asked “should I specialise or should I keep my skill set broad to appeal to a wider prospective Employer base”? Well, I think there’s pro’s and con’s to doing both and whilst not an easy question to answer, for what it’s worth, I do have an opinion on what could be best for you!….

First let’s look at both sides of the argument…..

The Specialist

As someone who specialises within a certain field typically you’ll have a greater depth of experience in that said area. You’ll focus all of your effort, knowledge, training and development etc. on that one specialist area. You are seen as an expert in your field. You often are paid handsomely because you hold a knowledge and skill level that can be in demand and not easily matched.  When presented with job opportunities that match your skill set you will find it easier in securing positions given the deeper level of expertise compared to the wider population.

On the flipside, if you’re in a market where there is a downturn in demand for your skill set then you run the risk of having to re-train in new areas if your specialty becomes obsolete. In addition, often most people at some point in their career will fancy a change or have the desire for something fresh and if you’ve only ever worked in one area this change can be challenging, although not impossible.

The Generalist

As a generalist you will poses a greater variety of skills and may be very good at doing many things in differing environments. However typically as a generalist whilst you may possess a broader set of skills you may not always be at the same level of expertise as specialists at any one area. A great advantage of being a generalist is that you can appeal to a broader range of Employers. You can also diversify into different areas as the economic landscape and demand on said services peaks and troughs.  There was an employee at my former job who worked in the IT department but had a vast knowledge of kratommasters supplements and had a side job as a personal nutritionist, however, nobody would have guessed it based on his line of work. On the downside you may miss out on certain jobs because you’ve been beaten to the post by someone with more experience which I’m sure we’ve all heard before!

My advice is that in the early part of your career it’s important to develop a wide range of skills within a particular industry – critical in fact. Allow yourself time to gain as many useful skills as possible and in doing so, try to understand what you enjoy doing the most. Its fine to have an ‘end goal’ position your striving to get into however often to get into those dream jobs you’ll need to gain other closely related experience. For example, some of the best Marketers I’ve worked with have spent time in Sales and some of the best Sales people have spent time in Marketing. Often to get to a senior level you have to experience other (related) job roles. The same association can be made of Finance & Operations, HR and Operations, NPD & Technical etc.

So in summary, don’t be afraid to broaden your experience in your early career. Identify what your good at and importantly what you enjoy. Once you have that then don’t be afraid to develop into that specific area further and excel in it. You’re better off doing a few things brilliantly in a well selected (in demand) area than being a ‘jack of all’ in many. Because after all, no one cares much for Mediocracy.

If you’ve been through an interview process in the last 5 years then you’ll perhaps have noticed how much more common place Psychometric Testing is as part of an organisations recruitment process. Like the vast majority of the population, the thought of being tested/ analysed in areas like Numerical & Verbal competence, Situational Judgement, Personality Profiling can be a frightening thing. However, below is some useful information that will help you understand what they are all about – and hopefully even help you to become better at them!

So what are Psychometric tests?

Psychometric tests are an objective way for Employers/ Recruiters to measure the potential of candidates to perform well in a job role. The power of psychometric testing is that there is a strong correlation between test scores and job performance, i.e. if you score highly in a psychometric test, the chances are that you are going to perform well in the job. As an employer, their predictive qualities make psychometric tests very attractive. Add the fact that they can be administered quickly and efficiently on a large scale and you can see why psychometric tests have become the norm.

7 Tips for success

Tip 1: Practice, Practice, Practice

Often you’ll be allowed to practice a series of example questions to give you an idea of what the test questions will be like. Take these example questions seriously; they are your best chance of familiarising yourself with the particular type of psychometric test you are taking. Of course, the questions on the real test will be different, however by practicing you’re familiarising yourself with what’s to come and you’ll reduce your anxiety.

Tip 2: Who’s behind the Psychometric Tests

Most organisations/ recruiters will outsource to a specialist test publisher e.g. SHL, Saville Consulting, TalentQ, Thomas International etc. As soon as you find out which company has designed the psychometric test you can go directly to their website and find out even more information about that specific test, such as the time limit, whether negative marking is being used, and whether they have example test questions.

Tip 3: Plan your online test session

If your psychometric test is online you will be able to choose where and when you take it. So think about when you work best: is it in the morning or later in the day? Also, choose a quiet time when you are least likely to be disturbed. Turn off your phone and any other distractions before you start the test. Use a computer you like to work on and make sure you have everything you need before you start your test: a calculator, pens, paper, Carol Vorderman if she’s available etc. Oh and make sure you’ve been to the loo before your psychometric test starts as some psychometric tests can take up to an hour!

Tip 4: Understand the question

Understanding the question is different from reading it. Perhaps read the question, think about your answer and then re-read the question to check you are about to attempt what is intended. During your psychometric test it is very easy under the pressure of time to dive head-first into answering a question only to find half-way through that you’ve misunderstood the question.

Tip 5: You probably don’t have time to double-check answers

During exams you may be used to double-checking your answers. Whilst this is admirable in some test scenarios, in a psychometric test the time limits are so tight that the time you spend checking an answer is probably better spent answering another question. Most people don’t get to the end of their psychometric test within the time limit. There is obviously a balance to be struck with checking answers during your test. Rushing through your test to the end is too fast, and double-checking every question is too slow. A good balance might be to pause at the end of each question and look back at the question; does it look right?

Tip 6: The speed vs. accuracy

Your psychometric test score is not always about how many questions you get right. The results of your aptitude test will include accuracy and speed ratings showing how many of the attempted questions you got right and how quickly you answered those questions. If you rush through your test you might score highly for speed but low on accuracy. Different companies place different weighting on the importance of speed and accuracy, so have a think about the type of company you are applying to and what sort of person they are looking for. In most tests the company will be looking for both speed and accuracy.

Tip 7: Ask for feedback

If the company is following industry-standard best practises, they will provide all candidates with feedback after their test, even to candidate who is unsuccessful. These best practises are guided by the British Psychological Society and all psychometric test administrators should adhere to them (although they are not legally bound to). Feedback is useful for finding out how to improve your test performance next time.

In summary, Psychometric testing is common place across most industry sectors and at all levels. Therefore, if you enjoy doing them then great. However, if the thought of them keep you awake at night with worry then learn to love them. Get good at them and embrace them. It could be the difference in securing that all important dream job!


So. There’s this thing out there now called ‘Social Media’ – anyone heard of it???

On a serious note we all have Social Media (in various forms) coming out of our ears! According to industry experts if you’re not active on the social media scene then you’ll be in the minority now as 60% (2015) of the UK’s population have active Social Media accounts. e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, Tinder etc. say no more….

Having just returned from LinkedIn’s 2015 Social RecruitIn event in London last week and listening to key notes from thought leaders such as James Caan CBE (pic below), Peter Cosgrove of CPL and Lou Adler I am optimistic about the balance that Social Media can play in the Recruitment world – the balance between Art & Science as they cleverly described it. And yes, it’s not lost on me that LinkedIn needs buy in from us Recruiters/ Employers in order for them to succeed.

James Caan CBE @ LinkedIn Social RecruitIn event London (Oct 2015)

James Caan CBE @ LinkedIn Social RecruitIn event London (Oct 2015)

A word of caution though. Whilst SM poses an interesting opportunity it doesn’t come without its potential pitfalls…..

For many (me included) Social Media at times has seemed like something to get involved with because you have to. Something you get involved with because you don’t want to be seen as a Dinosaur, old fashioned or outdated. SM, in a professional/ work sense has never struck me as a natural evolution to good old fashion techniques such as picking up the Telephone and talking! However, when it comes to the Recruitment game, harnessing the power of Social Media can be truly amazing – allowing you to reach greater numbers of people faster and to communicate in a less intrusive way that candidates sometimes prefer.  In many respects through the technology available today, the visibility on talent has never been greater. Due to this greater visibility however, no longer is there a mystic or mystery about someone’s network or contact book which they may have taken years even decades building. Through free tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc. anyone can pretty much find anyone these days and therefore on the face of it, its incredible easy to reach out to people. Almost 80% of companies are actively using Social Media to recruit for their own organisation and this is of course good for those companies – reducing cost per hire, building employer branding etc.

Well, as good recruiters will know the identifying of people, whilst not easy, has never really been the hard bit. It’s that initial engagement with the candidate, understanding their situation, carefully managing them through the many stages of making life changing career decisions that will affect various things including their career, family, work-life balance etc. It’s the ‘Human’ parts of the process that an email, DM, Tweet can’t impact and hence why the more experienced a recruiter, the more in demand their services. Anyway I digress – I, like many others are learning to harness SM to our benefit and for the benefit of candidates and clients alike.

My advice to job seekers/ toe-tippers/ anyone who is considering a career move is in the same way that organisations can leverage Social Media to give them more available reach/ choice when recruiting candidates, you can also leverage Social Media to build your own brand. Give yourself a platform for prospective employers and recruiters to identify you and bring you greater choice when scouring the job markets. Harnessing tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter etc. can give you more insight into brands and organisations and therefore you can make more informed decisions about how you feel about them before you even meet them. It’s not a 1 way street.

A word of caution though, it’s widely accepted that ‘you are what you post online’ and with more and more employers and staffing agencies utilising SM to conduct (off the record) background checks its worth checking you’ve deleted those embarrassing drunken photos from last weekend’s Stag party before you apply for that dream job! No one wants to see that. A good rule of thumb I was once told was to ask yourself would you be happy for your Grandparents to see it?

In summary, Social Media can be brilliant for many people for many different reasons – I can only speak from the Recruitment and Staffing perspective however in the future it will play a bigger part of our daily routine, an intrinsic part of everyday life so embrace it. Use it to your advantage – reach out to lost contacts, keep more informed of daily news, industry trends, get the latest advice from industry experts and perhaps get yourself that next promotion as a result.  You have to view Social Media as just another form of communication. Another form of communication alongside the Telephone, the Fax, the Email and the Letter (for all those born pre 1997 I have a picture of a Letter below for illustration purposes).

A hand written letter - I know, Amazing!

A hand written letter – I know, amazing!

But remember, treat it with the same respect you would in other forms of communications.

So, you’ve got yourself an interview and now’s the time to shine….

For some, interviews are a natural, enjoyable and sometimes easy process that most of the time will result in a job offer. You find selling yourself is easy – after all, who knows you better than you! However for some, the thought of an interview for that dream job can keep them awake at night. Nerves take over and influence the things you say, the way you behave and even how you think. Interviews, like most things in life are something you get better at with practice. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, below are some useful tips to maximise your chance of success.

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