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How to make an impact in a letter

Q: For some three months now I have been seeking new employment. I was the victim of redundancy, and have found it rather difficult to secure interviews when responding to advertised job opportunities. Can you advise how to create the greatest impact under such circumstances?

A: The first thing to take on board is that most advertisements today are still drawing a large response. Also, bear in mind that the recipient of this response is normally under pressure and has limited time to devote to each application.

If specific criteria have been set in an advertisement, candidates who do not match this will immediately be eliminated. So there is little point in applying for the position unless you genuinely believe you satisfy the criteria requested.

Assuming that you do, you need to make the recipient’s life as easy as possible. Too often, people write reams about how wonderful they are.

My recommendation is a brief, hand-written response, assuming your handwriting is legible, accompanied by a two-page (or maximum of three pages) CV which clearly and succinctly gives your key personal details and your career in reverse order.

It helps to provide bullet-point details of responsibilities and achievements for the most recent couple of positions. Prior to this, you need only provide dates of employment, the name of the employer and the position you held.

In summary, keep it tidy, keep it brief and keep it conventional and if you think it appropriate, send a photograph.

Make recruitment work for you

Q: Can you explain to me why it is that on the few occasions I have used the services of a recruitment company, I have received candidates who do not meet my requirements?

A: I am afraid this is probably the thing that recruitment companies get criticised for more than anything else, and in many instances, with good reason.

From my own experience, I can say that one of the most difficult things is to gain a clear understanding of precisely what it is that a client requires.

As a minimum, you should be prepared to invest an hour of your time in a face-to-face meeting to brief a consultant thoroughly. They do not simply require the bare bones of the position, but also a feel for the person or people involved, the nature of the business, and, if relevant, the culture of the company.

Second, a job description is essential. The discipline of writing it will also help to clarify in your mind precisely what it is you require the person to do.

Third, and perhaps most useful to the recruitment consultant, is a person specification. A simple list of the key qualifications, skills, and experience which you seek is an enormous help.

If you wish to check the credentials of a recruitment agency, establish whether they are a member of the Federation of Recruitment and Employment Services, the professional association for recruiters.

Slowing down staff turnover

Q: I am the owner of a 40-bedroom hotel in southern England. I have noticed over the past couple of years that a significant number of new members of staff have left, for no apparent reason, within a couple of months of joining the hotel. I believe I am a fair employer and I am intrigued as to whether you have any advice as to how I can reduce this obvious wastage.

A: You are not alone: this is a common problem and one which afflicts hotel and catering operators alike, both large and small. A new job offers many challenges but can also hold many traumas.

From my own experience, and based on statistical evidence, it is apparent that people are at their most vulnerable in the first couple of weeks of employment. Reducing this feeling of vulnerability and easing their passage into their new work environment is therefore extremely important.

A number of companies have invested a great deal of time and money investigating this problem, and in certain instances, this has had dramatic results.

Some companies have introduced a “buddy” system, in which new employees are tagged on to an existing employee who becomes their mentor for the first few weeks of employment.

An investment which will pay dividends is to provide an induction for employees. This should cover everything from a simple tour of the business (how often does a chef get the chance to see the bedrooms?) to one-to-one meetings with someone in a position of responsibility in which expectations and ground rules can be established.

A series of review meetings can also be of great benefit. I suggest these should take place after one week and then after four weeks.

Again, these should be open and frank get-togethers, providing the opportunity for the new employee to voice concerns or to ask questions.

If you would like a question answered by our expert panel, write to: Problem Page, Caterer & Hotelkeeper, Quadrant House, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS. Please note that no correspondence will be entered into. Keep questions to 200 words or less.

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