Where next for former Thomas Cook employees, and how employers can help and solve their own recruitment issues at the same time.
By Neil Simmons, Managing Director of TN Recruits and ME Recruits
It is just weeks since the collapse of Thomas Cook, with 9,000 job losses, and the impending closure of hundreds of branches, including those in most Kent towns.
While there are a couple of heart-warming stories of branches saved thanks to the Hays Travel buy out, the majority of jobs will be lost.
It is also technically a full employment economy, and Kent has even lower unemployment than the UK average.
So is there a magical way to solve both problems?
The Thomas Cook collapse has struck a chord with me both as a recruiter and a former Airtours employee.
In fact, in my career I have held various roles from a Blue Coat at Pontins, to media sales for a regional newspaper to entertainment and events for an airline and a paper boy.
Why do my skills work in recruitment? Because I am confident, I am personable, I research my sector and the businesses I want to work for, and I know how to find and sell a role or person’s attributes.
Thanks to my varied back catalogue of roles I know more than most to look for skills as well as experience and to take a chance on people who are bright, have a great personality, show passion and commitment and have other skills that could be an asset depending on the sector.
Former Thomas Cook employees can harness their sales and customer service skills, for example, and apply for roles in business development, client relationship management or marketing and communications. Or, they can look at different sectors such as property or retail or even recruitment. I, for one, will be pleased to help any former Thomas Cook employees in terms of placing them or even recruiting them myself if I can.
Tips for candidates looking for a new role
- Candidates should be clear about what their skills are and how they might apply to the role, particularly if the job they are applying for is in a different sector. This applies to both submitting a CV and covering letter, or in an interview situation.
- Interviewees should ensure that they meet with any recruitment agency before being put forwards for a job and that your CV is optimised in line with the role. They should ask for any information they have about the people conducting the interview, the process, the company and the role itself to be as prepared as possible. Then the candidate should prepare some examples of behaviours and skills the company is interested in their candidate displaying.
- Candidates should use the opportunity to say if they are interested in a role and show passion and energy. If the company interviewing sees that they like the candidate and the candidate likes them, the process could be sped up.
- It’s important that candidates are honest if they are interviewing elsewhere and where they are in the process – this will help the company to fast track if they like the candidate and are further behind in the stages than competitors. Another tip is for candidates to be honest if they’re nervous, they can just tell the interviewer – it will take the pressure off and create a trusting rapport.
- A seemingly obvious one but candidates must research the company they are interviewing for no matter how short the lead time before an interview. Nothing says ‘I’m not interested’ like not knowing basic facts about the business or sector. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good you are at a job than someone who doesn’t seem interested in a company. Even if their website isn’t particularly helpful, the fact the candidate has looked at it will cut through and they can always respectfully give some feedback on the website too – most employers appreciate constructive criticism as they can act on it. Or, the candidate could tell their recruitment consultant the feedback to pass on.
- Candidates should beware what is online. No, I’m talking about social media pics (although that too) but old copies of CVs from previous listings and jobs boards. A recent candidate of ours had already been put forward for a role by another agency that they had never spoken to or met as the agency had copied the CV and sent to their client speculatively. They hadn’t updated or optimised the CV so the candidate was not initially shortlisted.
- Candidates should feel free to ask their interviewer questions in return. This is their opportunity to interview the company too. Even better, the candidate should go in prepared with several questions.
And Tips for Employers
- Employers who need to get ahead in the race for talent should be prepared to adapt and have an open mind. Some of the best recruits might not the obvious candidates. Those recruiting should look for attributes such as confidence, commitment and the ability to learn quickly. Sometimes personality is as or more important than experience. It is very easy to discard a CV from a potential candidate who doesn’t have exactly the expertise you are ideally looking for. But candidates that have the right attitude and skills that are transferable can be moulded into the perfect employee with the right induction and training.
- In fact, having a well-honed induction and training programme is as important as recruiting itself… whether experienced in the same sector or role or not.
- Employers often roll out the red carpet for high paying senior roles. However, first impressions count and too often it is harder to fill more junior or middle management roles. If a company wants its brand perception to be consistent, they should treat all candidates the same – roll out the red carpet for everyone, make an effort and make every person (good or less talented) feel special and that working for that company is ‘the dream’.
- A common trap for employers is trying to hire the exact same person who is vacating a role. Firstly, they are leaving for a reason so why would they want the same again. Secondly, this is an opportunity to look for someone with slightly different skills or attributes, and thirdly, the role can be reshaped to be more attractive to a new recruit, learning from any feedback the previous employee provided.
- We all have our preferred suppliers that know our brand and preferences. However, if something isn’t working or a particular role is proving difficult to fill, or a new role has come up that is slightly different, the employer should consider changing to a different recruitment consultant. We do with houses if they don’t sell, so consider the same with your roles. Some recruitment agencies are more specialist than others for specific roles, so companies should think about changing up their consultants for better results.
- It’s good to be robust in the process of picking a suitable candidate but too often, particularly with middle management up, the process is too long and senior directors at later stages do not make themselves available fast enough to see good candidates. We are seeing more and more drop out of latter stage interviews because other competitors have recognised their talent and been more flexible in the process. Companies can avoid good people going elsewhere by being flexible and shortening their process, also by allowing a good recruitment agency to cover off those all-important early stages and vet properly so that they can fast track good applicants.
- Perhaps most importantly in this type of market, the interviewer should not assume they are interviewing the candidate and not the other way around. Candidates are often the ones making the decision, so it’s important to sell a company and its attributes to the interviewee as much as asking them questions. Companies need to impress them as competition for candidates is tougher than competition for jobs.