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  • Category: Recruitment

Tested!

As a full service agency one of the things we offer clients is that every technical candidate undergoes tests before they’re sent for interview. This way we know that they are capable of operating in the coding languages that the client needs. People wonder how we do this so this will throw a little light on the matter.

All the tests relate to specific coding languages and consist of multi-choice questions. Each question has one 100% right answer and other alternatives that are right, but not quite as specific as they could be.
The questions are mixed up relating to various aspects of the subject being tested and, if the candidate gets question 1 absolutely spot on, the next time a question around that particular aspect comes up it will be harder, adapting to the candidate’s skills.

So, for instance, if question 1 is about PHP namespaces and the candidate chooses the best answer, when PHP namespaces comes up again, perhaps at question 15, the question will be harder than if the candidate has chosen one of the alternative answers in question 1.

The results are given in categories 10 up to 18 (the highest). Sometimes a client will request a bespoke test and this can be arranged too.

What the tests don’t reveal is whether a candidate can code a project in a specific environment – only that they are competent at the level required in understanding the code and know what they’re talking about.  

This is important as many candidates list a long string of codes that they ‘can use’, but their depth of understanding can be shaky in some of these. Sending people for interview without evidence that they are fluent in the code is a huge waste of everybody’s time.

When a tested candidate arrives for interview the interviewers are starting from a place where they can be confident that the candidate is competent in the code they require. However, we do advise them to give them the opportunity to show what the can do with something that is specific to the project.

In effect, interviewing a pre-tested and interviewed candidate is like starting at the short-list without having to go through that tedious first interview ‘weeding out’ process.

  • Category: Candidates

Dress for success

In the tech industry dress codes can range from suited and booted to Bermuda shorts and colourful T-shirts, so what should you wear for your interview?

Remember that old cliché:

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

The interview is your first impression and it’s wise to err on the side of smartness!

If you’re being interviewed for a position in a bank, accountancy practice or any other professional organisation they will expect you to wear a suit, shirt and tie if you’re a man and smart business attire if you’re a woman, no short, short skirts or low cut tops! This is just common sense and although you may find that ties are optional in the workplace, it’s best to be smarter than required than look like your dress code won’t fit in.

If you’re being interviewed for a more creative environment the lines can appear blurred. It may well be that you know someone who has worked for the organisation in the past and assures you that shorts and flip-flops are totally acceptable – but don’t turn up for an interview dressed like this.

We advise that smart clothes are still a good move, it shows respect for the organisation and that you are aware of your image. Even creative people have to dress up to impress their clients sometimes.

Curve balls in the wardrobe department

Don’t be tempted to add a cartoon tie or anything with amusing graphics, you want the interviewers to be focused on your skills, not your attire.

If you have piercings, other than discreet earrings, we’d advise you to remove them for the interview.

Tattoos are no longer unusual, but it’s probably a good idea to ensure they’re covered by your clothing as far as possible for interview. Again, you want people to focus on you and your suitability for the role, not be trying to work out what the bit of a tattoo peeping out of your sleeve is.

Shoes should be cleaned and smart. It’s surprising how many people wear a really nice suit and then forget to clean their shoes. There is another old adage that says ‘You are not well-dressed without clean shoes’. There’s a subliminal message about attention to detail – and you really don’t want people to doubt you in relation to that if they’re looking for a coder.

Check your hands look tidy – there’s nothing worse than broken or dirty nails or rough hands (you will be shaking hands). Nice looking hands are not just for women, they are equally important for men.

Tip: It’s good practice to stick to low-key colours, but there’s nothing wrong with a colourful tie or scarf to add a bit of interest. It’s also a good way to help the interviewer(s) to remember you – in a positive way.

If you're not sure your agency will almost certainly know the client well enough to give you advice.

  • Category: Skills Development

Women in Technology – why is there a skills gap?

Sadly, in technology, women are woefully underrepresented. But in the last few years there has been mounting pressure for more effort to encourage girls to consider the possibilities of a career in technology.

The suggested reasons for the deficit are numerous – a lack of early years’ exposure to technology, the vocabulary used by education professionals, pay divides and career packages that don’t support women in the way they do men, and even a pure and simple lack of talent amongst women. 

From classroom to boardroom

Whatever it is, it seems clear that we need to first identify where the crucial decision making milestones are, so we can tackle the bias before girls have made up their mind. That means talking to girls as early as possible to communicate the opportunities that a tech career could bring. It stands to reason that if we have more women entering technology-based careers, the imbalances or perceived challenges to women in these sorts of careers will eventually even out.

The first time children are asked to make any sort of decision about their future is when they select their GCSE’s, so we have to do more before this milestone to encourage them to see tech as a viable option. That means supporting teaching staff who are working with children from age 11 and up, so that they become as confident discussing tech careers with girls, as they are with boys. It also means creating initiatives which showcase tech careers earlier, and use female role models to illustrate how suitable a tech career is for either gender.

Next we need to look at the number of girls choosing a STEM subject at A Level (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics). This seems to be the time that many girls move away from seeing tech as an option, and more research needs to be done to understand why. Ultimately, the more girls choosing STEM subjects at A Level, the more we’d expect to filter through to tech careers, so addressing girl’s concerns, fears and worries at this stage is pivotal to giving more girls the confidence to pursue these areas at both A Level and degree level.

No talent or just a bad attitude?

Up until now perhaps we have been convinced that the UK simply doesn’t have the right talent to plug this seemingly large skills gap. But rather than trying to find the answer abroad, perhaps what’s really needed is a change in attitude at home. Changing how we see digital and technical roles, and changing the stale way of thinking that has dominated the technology industry for so long is one way forward. A good starting point would be to see more female role models being used in strong tech roles, whether it’s in fictitious sci-fi dramas, or actually in the lab.  

After all, women have had a place in technology as far back as the 19th century, starting with Ada Lovelace and continuing with Bletchley Park during the Second World War. Women have always been there making a silent but significant difference to the world of science and technology. We need to take those stories and use them to inspire the next generation, no matter what their gender.

Forward-thinking initiatives

Thankfully, it would appear that there are initiatives around the country that have been set up to encourage more women to enter technology, which are supported by both not-for-profit-organisations and the NHS in England. It is hoped the role of women working in tech will be boosted and provide networks where both professional and personal development is available

In addition, projects like the WISE campaign are fighting hard to change the way we think about technology careers, and are providing girls with the information they need to make an informed choice at an earlier age. 

Change the thinking, change the landscape of technology

As IT recruiters we believe it’s our job to help women return to technology roles once they’ve left, as this is another area that we lose many women from tech careers. Technology is a still a male dominated sector, so taking a year out can be enough to knock a woman’s confidence and result in her never returning. To support women in this position it is important that the benefits packages on offer are fair and allow women to have a good work/life balance. 

Filling the technology skills gap is a challenging and long-term project, but it is not impossible. By championing the sector as one that is as equally open to women as it is to men, by showcasing more female mentors, and reaching girls at a younger age, we will undoubtedly start to close the gap. And closing the gap is absolutely essential if we want to see the UK’s technology sector truly start to compete on the world’s stage.

  • Category: Recruitment

The cost of recruitment

Everyone ‘knows’ that recruitment is expensive, but few companies actually stop to calculate the actual costs.
The biggest cost relates to the time invested in the recruitment process. It’s important to remember that the cost of a member of staff is not confined to the hourly rate they are paid, but needs to include the cost of employing them, including office space, furniture, equipment and much more. When the is calculated accurately, an hour of staff time, especially when a senior manager is involved, can soar into the hundreds of pounds.
Saving our clients money is one of the core values we have, so we have actually thought this one through! These are the costs that you need to consider:

Job description: Not only the time of the department manager who is looking for a new member of staff, but also the people in the HR team who will need to review the current job description/role profile and update it or, in the case of a new appointment, create one from scratch. It may seem a straightforward exercise, but, in reality, you’re talking about several hours as the department manager and HR team compare notes and discuss, tweak and arrive at agreement on the final job outline.

Advertising the role: Whether you decide to brief an agency, place an ad in the press or place the job on one or more job boards, engage a head hunter – or a combination of any or all of these – this not only takes time, but there are fees involved.

Reviewing applications: Every application has to be reviewed and matched to the essential criteria you’ve established for that particular vacancy. If you have a bespoke application form then, at least, you are comparing like with like, but if, as in most organisations, you’re comparing CVs or a standard application form, it’s going to take longer to find the key pieces of information to draw up the interview list.

Organising interviews: Working out when the interviewer(s) is free and scheduling time for interviews, a suitable venue (possibly another cost if you’re interviewing off site) and then inviting your chosen list of candidates all take time and effort.

Interviewing: Quite apart from the interviewer’s time in each interview, don’t forget the preparation time each interviewer will need to invest in reviewing every application to ensure they have the right questions ready. With a long list of matching candidates this can run to days rather than hours, especially when they’re technical candidates and testing is needed too.

Short-listing: After the first round of interviews the selection of a final short-list is usually the next step. These people then need to be invited back for a more in-depth discussion. More organising of interviews is required!

Final interviews: More interviewer’s time – both for review and, if there is more than one interviewer, discussion and collaboration before the actual interviews.

Final selection: Sometimes this is straightforward, but often there are two or more suitable candidates or, worse still, no really suitable candidates. Then there is the admin time in sending out contracts, advice to those unsuccessful candidates, etc.

If you tot all this up, you’ll find that even a conservative estimate will be well over £10,000 – and often two or three times that in unseen costs. No wonder recruitment is considered expensive!

If you’re recruiting IT staff you could cut a large chunk of that process out. All candidates submitted to our clients have been interviewed, tested and matched to the culture of the organisation. This means that you only see a handful of candidates that are, effectively, the short list. The fees you pay are far, far less than the in-house costs of going through a two tier interviewing process. Give us a call on 020 3762 2020 if you’d like to discuss more.

  • Category: Business development

The dangerous rise in UK cybercrime

Cybercrime has become every bit as clever as the rise in sophisticated software development.  And while we think we’re creating better and more superior pieces of software, we find that cybercriminals are finding new and inventive ways of taking not only your computer, but also your identity and financial information. Your IT department should be aware of the dangers, and can help to raise awareness throughout your organisation by providing training and helping to create promotional campaigns. 

But what can we do to combat the rise in cybercrime in the UK, or at least prepare ourselves and our computers against an attack?

Let’s take a look at the worst and most potent types of cybercrime out there. Malware can take many forms and is becoming more sophisticated in its ability to infiltrate your organisation.

Ransomware

  • Not opening emails if you’re unsure who they are from, and don’t click on attachments or links until you’re absolutely sure it’s safe. 
  • CAPTCHA codes could be linked to ransomware. Check the authenticity of the site first.
  • Back up all of your files regularly.
  • Keep your software, programmes and applications updated, but also be very careful about where you download updates from. Vigilance where software development is concerned is absolutely essential. 

There are other types of malware to be aware of that directly relate to the dangerous rise in UK cybercrime, and these include: 

  • Viruses – self-replicating viruses that can spread throughout your computer network and reach other files.
  • Trojans – don’t replicate, but opens a door into your computer and steals information from it.
  • Worms – self-replicating, and spreads to other people via messages which are infected with the virus.
  • Spyware – sits in your computer once it enters and spies on you. It can take your financial details and work its way into software which means you could be installing it without even knowing.
  • Adware – Displays adverts, slowing your computer down, and often displaying explicit content for over 18s.

Ultimately, your first line of defence should be a good quality antivirus suite. Your antivirus package should be seen as an important investment, not an expensive insurance policy that will never be used. As a business, you are a target.

It is just as important to actively encourage good practice within your organisation, making sure that your antivirus solutions are up to date and carrying out regular backups, whether that’s you, a dedicated IT team or an external IT company who do it for you. 

Use the skills of your IT professionals by asking them to assist with the creation of policies and procedures that can be audited against. Raising awareness throughout the organisation is crucial in terms of avoiding ransomware. Your developers, software engineers, programmers can all help with creating a comprehensive training programme that can be adapted for both new and existing staff. This training should start from the point of recruitment and continue throughout your employee’s time with you.

Education gives both you and your staff another weapon with which to fight against cybercrime, helping everyone avoid the traps that cybercriminals put there to catch you out, and the resulting harm they can cause. Tactics are always changing, so training should be delivered on a regular basis for all staff throughout your organisation, helping to remind them of best practice guidelines, and update them on the newest tricks cybercriminals are employing to try and take your company down.

  • Category: Recruitment

What’s in the package?

When you’re looking for a new job the first priority is finding a job that offers you the type of work you want to do, a good salary, the level of responsibility you’re ready for and that the employer looks like a company you’ll enjoy working for.

Then there’s the benefits package.

In today’s world you’re legally entitled to so many days holiday and a pension; but there’s much more to it than that.

There are surveys about what people want from work, but they tend to be blanket reviews of the workforce in general. We’ve noticed that the benefits people want vary enormously.

  • People in their 20s are often more interested in gym membership than pensions.
  • When the employees have young families, crèche facilities and holidays can be important.
  • A nice bonus is useful for those who have growing families and want to look at upsizing their home.
  • Some people prefer a car allowance to a company car, simply so that they can get a better model, even if it’s not new.
  • As they pass 50 pensions become higher focus – and companies that offer more than just the minimum required get more attention.

The interesting thing is that many of our applicants see training as a benefit too. Whilst this may seem to be a given as part of keeping staff up-to-date with the latest technology and systems, in reality not every company has the budget for accredited training – and there’s a big difference between low level training and fully accredited courses.

All the big technology companies, like Microsoft and Cisco, have accredited training – but it’s not cheap. Smaller organisations don’t always have a big enough training budget to keep their staff up-to-date with all the latest advances – so those that make the investment do have an edge.

If it’s a choice between offering attractive benefits like gym membership, car allowances, loans for season tickets and crèche places – or investing in certified training, some companies feel that the benefits package is a bigger magnet. However, most employees are looking to keep their skills up-to-date and, if they don’t get certificated training, will move on before they’re so far behind that they’ll struggle to get another job. It costs the employer less to keep good staff than to search for and employ new people.

As people move into management, accredited training is less important as they’re more interested in developing their people skills. But, as an employer, how do you win at the benefits game?
There really isn’t a single ‘right’ answer – but surveying your current staff isn’t a bad place to start. Just be aware that there are tax implications to many of the benefits you might offer – and it’s wise to advise your employees to consult a tax expert before making a decision; the tax side of benefits is really complex.

Be creative, be flexible – and remember that helping people to keep their skills current is as good as a gym membership for keeping good people.

If you’d like to discuss benefits packages with us we’d be happy to give you some guidance. Give us a call on 020 3762 2020.

  • Category: Business development

The EU referendum and the IT sector...

The EU is by far the UK's biggest trading partner.  44% of everything we sell abroad goes to EU countries.


Remaining within the EU guarantees our access to the single market but leaving creates both risk and opportunity.


So how will leaving or staying in affect the UK IT sector?  It's a question generating a great deal of debate throughout the industry.


Those that back the campaign to remain part of Europe have a sound argument.


The UK relies on a large pool of talent sourced from Europe and backers of the stay campaign argue that, if leaving Europe makes it more difficult for Europeans to work in the UK, IT will suffer as we have a shortage of skilled IT workers in our own country.


One of the most influential arguments of those who want us to stay is that we currently, as part of Europe, have access to a market of 500 million people.


They claim that EU membership makes the UK appear more attractive to international investment and also makes the UK more globally competitive, giving our nation a better deal in trading relations as part of the EU.  It is also argued that more foreign businesses are likely to set up in the UK if we are part of the EU.


There is also a line of thought that the UK remaining part of Europe gives us a seat at the table where the decisions are made, whereas, if we leave, it is likely that we will still be affected by these decisions but will no longer have any say in how decisions are taken.


In order for a separate UK to remain trading with the rest of the EU, it is likely that many compromises would have to be made, for example in immigration.


But not everyone agrees.


There are many in the industry who think that a UK outside of Europe would flourish.  For a start, our native talent would have more opportunities for work, training and development. If even a fraction of the 350m we spend each week on staying part of the EU, was to be invested in training and education, our home-grown talent could easily flourish. Perhaps this would outweigh the argument from those who point to a wider talent pool as the No. 1 reason to stay.


To build on that argument, many say that it is the uncontrolled immigration from the EU that is actually stifling our access to talent. In reality, it is India and the Philippines where you find highly skilled, but cost-effective IT professionals. However, due to the lack of control we have over immigration from the EU, the government has to be very strict with immigration from other countries, meaning accessing these true talent pools is almost impossible.


One of the main reasons that some of the key thinkers in our country want us out of Europe is that they want the UK run by people who have been elected by the UK people, they want our rules made by us.


It is thought by this camp that the UK does not have enough influence in the EU and there is far too much regulation and red tape stifling trade and business. Only last year, the EU changed the VAT rules for those selling digital products and services, which ultimately meant that small businesses who had never had to even register for VAT before, now had to register and start charging and paying hefty fees. It was financial chaos.


Lastly, those that argue for Brexit believe that remaining part of the EU is only beneficial for big business. SME's on the other hand, who are currently smothered by EU regulations, would actually flourish in an independent UK, growing a stronger economy within our own control and regulations. Big companies such as Facebook and Amazon love the EU. But why? Could it be the ability to play the EU rules to massively save on tax? Take for example the €9tn that flows though the Netherlands to tax havens, which helps huge corporations pay less tax than some small family-owned IT firms in the UK.


The problem really is that there is still a lot of uncertainty in actually what will happen if we leave the EU.


Will existing EU laws still apply?  Many European laws are later entrenched into UK law but not always and not right away.   Will, for example, the new data protection laws that come in later this year still apply?  Another example is that the EU have made rulings about how Microsoft have to bundle software for sale in Europe – will this no longer apply?


Under EU law, all council data has to be transported, stored and processed within Europe only.  Will this still apply or will it have to stay in the UK only?  Will UK companies that currently handle European data no longer be eligible to store or process this data?


There are also pricing implications.  Mobile call costs are currently low across Europe – will these caps have to go up in the UK?


There's also the question of EU grants and subsidies within the IT industry.  How will these be affected?  What about copyright and intellectual property law?


The list of unknowns is long and daunting, that's for sure.  The arguments from both sides rage on and have divided the UK IT industry.  There are those who are convinced that leaving would be disastrous and those convinced that staying would be equally so in the long term.


You can be sure to see much more discussion on this subject as the referendum looms nearer.  As for us, like so many people we’re still undecided.  So we’ll continue to read both arguments with interest as we try to make up our mind on this monumentally important and historically crucial decision.
  • Category: Recruitment

How to use LinkedIn to find star candidates

LinkedIn started life as a ‘dating agency’ for employers looking for staff and candidates looking for jobs. Today it is much more sophisticated and operates as a networking platform that combines connecting people with added value in groups where members help each other and discuss topics of common interest. That doesn’t mean it no longer works as means of finding good candidates.
Here are our top tips:
  1. Make sure your contact details are showing on your profile – phone, email and website. Don’t make it difficult for people to contact you. This is just as important as an employer as it is for candidates.
  2. Ensure your website is up-to-date and looks attractive. There’s nothing worse (and quicker to put good candidates off) than a dated website; it says ‘we’re behind the times’ – not the message you want candidates to get. Better still, if you have a job opportunities page, use one of your three website links directly to that page labelled ‘careers with us’ or ‘job opportunities’ or something self-evident.
  3. Don’t use the article function to post job ads. People expect LinkedIn Pulse to be a source of wisdom, learning, knowledge-sharing, opinion and, occasionally, a rant. You won’t win any friends if you post your job specs instead of articles. Be smart and write a really good article about the area you want to recruit in and add a footnote to say ‘If you can recommend anyone who is looking for this kind or role – please put is in touch’.
  4. Use the Advanced search functions to find good matches. If you’re doing this often then you probably need a Premium account to give you more options. Enter all the key words you want to match – not just one or two, you’ll get better results.
  5. Never use LinkedIn’s templates for messages – even the ‘I'd like to join your LinkedIn network’, use your own messages. It’s a small thing, but makes a big difference and gets a huge increase in response rates.
  6. Don’t spam your connections with job ads. At best you’ll be ignored, at worst they’ll just disconnect or block you.
  7. Do make the effort to write articles regularly – even if it’s one you’ve featured on your company blog already. It sets you out as a thought-leader and expert – and good candidates want to work with that kind of boss.
  8. Don’t rely on your company page – far fewer people bother to follow company pages, people buy people and personal relationships are the key to success.
  9. Use your LinkedIn contacts to check out likely people. If you find a good candidate, see if your network is connected to them and find out what they think of that person. It might take a while, but it does mean you don’t invest expensive management time interviewing unsuitable candidates.
  10. Use your relationships to find good candidates. You do have relationships with your LinkedIn contacts, don’t you? Or did you just see it as a numbers exercise?
If you still can’t find the right candidates for your IT roles, give us a call on 020 3762 2020.
  • Category: Recruitment

IT people are different!

 

In most organisations IT people are seen as some alien breed who speak – or at least write – incomprehensible languages and actually understand technology! Many people are actually surprised to learn that some of them do actually wear suits. Of course, they are human like the rest of us, but they do have specialist skills.

If you’re recruiting a human resources manager so you first test their expertise? Does a salesman have to undergo a sales ‘exam’ before being considered for interview? There will be some searching questions during the interview, but these skills can be polished and developed in the role.

If you put a programmer in place – who turns out not to be very good at coding, the results can be disastrous. In today’s world most organisations cannot function without IT and if it doesn’t work the whole place grinds to a halt.

If you already have good people in place who know their stuff carrying out a test of candidates coding skills is possible, but if you’re recruiting for a new role with no existing in-house expertise, how do you know you’re getting someone who can actually cut it?

If you’re using the same agency you use to recruit admin staff or for management they probably know even less than you do about IT skills and how to measure them. If you’re advertising the brief may be precise, but unfortunately candidates often mistake their surface knowledge of a particular protocol as fulfilling the criteria of ‘in-depth experience of ...’ This can mean lots of time wasted testing and interviewing people who turn out to be not up to the job.

It’s surprising that, in today’s world, many organisations waste huge amounts of time trying to find the right people for their IT roles. Some of them even go so far as employing someone who interviewed well and talked a good talk, but fell over at the first hurdle once in post.

This is expensive! It wastes time, it holds the organisation back and it’s just not a practical solution to getting the best IT people for your business.
Fortunately, there is a solution – call this number 020 3762 2020 and you’ll be talking to a team of specialist IT recruiters. You’ll get candidates who have already been interviewed and tested – so all you have to do is find out if they’re a good fit for your team.

“Although Edison Hill placed me 4 years ago, they have kept an interest in my development and keep contact. They found me an excellent employer providing so many opportunities to improve my technology skills. They did a first rate job, for which I am very grateful.”
– Kevin Taylor, candidate