Friday, 31 December 2010

Review of the year. Thoughts on 2011...

There are a few contenders for the big news stories of 2010.  The two obvious ones, of course, are the re-emergence of the Mighty Leeds United and the emphatic sporting victories over our friends from Australia in the cricket and the rugby.

However, away from the sporting triumphs and disasters (the less said about the football world cup the better) it has been a very interesting year professionally which I have attempted to concisely summarise below along with my thoughts on 2011.  

2010 overall

After a bleak 2009 this year has seen all our key markets here at Appointments-uk show signs of recovery. In particular, our Fraud Investigation Team had an outstanding year!  Maybe in 2011 one of you chaps may actually find the time to make that often promised blog post??!  However, I fear there is more chance of Ricky Ponting being voted the best captain in Australian cricket history....

Computer Forensics & Electronic Disclosure

In my personal specialisms of Computer Forensics (CF) and Electronic Discovery (ED) recruitment has really picked up during the second half of the year.  The number of roles available – especially at a senior level – have increased but the difficulty has been persuading the very best talent in the market to make a move from stable organisations at this time when people are rightly uncertain about moving jobs.  This has meant that in the last quarter of 2010 a number of positions – especially at Manager to Director level  - have remained unfilled.

A real positive has been the increased number of appointments at graduate level.   Although the number of applicants still far outstrips the number of positions available, 2010 did see a vast increase in hires compared to 2009 with most of this increased activity coming from Big Four organisations.  Basic starting salaries in this area have slightly increased and now tend to be around the £27k/28k mark in London.  

2011 outlook

The outlook for ED is optimistic. Salaries have continued to increase for experienced people and the opportunities for major salary rises and rapid career progression in this area remain outstanding for talented professionals.  

I don’t think the future for CF is anywhere near as positive.  I see issues for pure CF people in the next year or so as salaries in this area haven’t increased to anywhere near the same level as ED.  This can make senior CF roles hard to fill as predominantly ED orientated potential jobseekers won’t take the pay cut needed to move into a pure CF role.

I also think there are growing difficulties around career opportunities in pure CF.  A number of people have spoken to me this year about hitting a career ceiling when at Manager level earning about £60k or so as there really is nowhere else to go (except for the few who progress to Director positions).  This has meant professionals in this area have attempted to broaden their portfolio of skills to include ED, wider information security skills or other disciplines just to open up career opportunities.

The other concern for CF (here in the UK) in 2011 is the continuing effect of the Public Sector cuts.  This has already had a direct effect on our company as all but two of our CF contractors in the Public Sector had their contracts curtailed during the last quarter of 2010.

It seems clear that recruitment in Law Enforcement is certainly not going to pick up but will there be job losses in this area (in addition to the closure of the FSS)?  Also, how is this change in the landscape going to affect the outsourcing companies?  With chargeable rates reducing as budgets are squeezed and the successful awarding of contracts apparently being increasingly based on ever lower charges does this mean that forensics professionals in the area, even if they keep their jobs, are unlikely to see their pay increase?  This is going to be tricky as some of the practitioners in this area outside London with over five years experience are still earning less than a new graduate in London.

How this is going to play out in 2011 is unclear right now but the future is certainly uncertain in this area.

On a positive note, 2010 has seen an increase in Companies developing their internal CF Teams.  Although predominantly in banking and finance, organisations in areas as diverse as pharmaceuticals and internet gaming have recruited CF experts this year and I would suggest this is likely to continue in 2011.

The thoughts above are just my opinions based on my experience: do you agree?


I thought some readers could be interested in the specific pressures facing recruiters in 2011.

Once more, 2010 has been another year when the reputation of recruiters has continued to slide.  On the positive side, I think 2011 has the potential to be a time where we will see many more recruiters go out of business.  This is no bad thing, of course, as it suggests that those who remain have managed to adapt to the new reality.  The old days of recruiters chatting to you on the phone for five minutes before spraying your CV to a number of organisations on a speculative basis have gone – thank goodness – and although some recruiters who work like this are hanging on it cannot last.

The key for successful recruitment in 2011 to my mind has to be successfully utilising social recruiting strategies and this whole area is progressing incredibly quickly.   Why should you take time out to look at a variety of different media to find a job that could be suitable?  Our job as recruiters is increasingly to bring the relevant content to you where you want to see it.

One of the bloggers who is really up to speed in this area and who has some very interesting views on this subject is Bill Boorman who gives his thoughts on 2011 in the following post:

This unstoppable growth of social recruitment does pose some real challenges for recruiters.  In his post above, Bill talks about changes at LinkedIn which I think is going to be the major challenge for 2011:

‘With the launch of Linked In referral engine later this year, the alpha launch of the new company pages, the delivery of matched jobs to profiles and other initiatives that the boffins in the Linked In labs will be developing over the coming year will make this channel a real threat to third-party recruiters eroding some market share, as sourcing candidates gets much easier and the prospect of direct sourcing and applying becomes much more attractive, fuelled by a reduced cost of hire. As new Linked In applications prove their worth, they will move to the paid for options and by the end of next year the paid for options may well become a necessity rather than a luxury.  How long do you think it will be before the 2nd degree search loopholes (via Bing) get closed, and names and contacts disappear completely unless you pay?’

Of course this is positive for the jobseeker as it will stop you being bothered so much on LinkedIn by annoying recruiters!  Who knows, it may even eventually stop your favourite LinkedIn discussion groups being ruined by recruiters posting irrelevant jobs.

Finally, at the end of this marathon blog, I would just like to wish you all a very happy, successful and peaceful New Year. 

Friday, 24 December 2010

New article

Excting news - well, that is assuming you aren't a fan of cutting-edge, incisive and ground-breaking recruitment articles!  If you are then good luck in your search..... If not, you can now read my latest article (offering advice to computer forensics students on how to secure a work placement) which has been published at Forensic Focus: (other articles I have written can be found here:

As you may know, I spend a lot of time speaking with computer forensics students at various Universities and I hope this article will prove useful in bringing together a lot of the advice out there for this specific discipline.  As usual, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this article (or anything I have written in my blog).

If you are travelling somewhere for Christmas today have a safe journey!

I once said something similar to my rather sarcastic friend 'Glum' who looked me in the eyes for a few seconds before slowly replying:  'No David, I am going to drive fast, take chances and set records'.  He isn't called Glum for nothing!

Finally, thank you very much to everyone who has taken the time to read this blog and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The real cost of recruitment

At 1.30am this morning I was at the poker table as my pal JP won a rare, monster pot, made even sweeter as he had bluffed the usually unbluffable 'Bingo' Bill and 'Joe 90'.  What is it about poker players and nicknames?  Anyway, the table banter was about how some people hate their jobs about as much as Vince Cable must do today!  This subject always makes me think of my cousin.

My cousin works for Google in California.  Unsurprisingly, he loves the work and the people but the thing that he talks about the most is that once Google have hired you they make you feel incredibly special and wanted.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently announced that all employees would get a 10% pay rise next year along with $1,000 holiday bonuses.  Along with other pay incentives announced I imagine that this helps keep people feeling wanted

I thought of this after my meeting yesterday with a senior computer forensics professional who is looking to make a move.  This person loves the work and the people at his company but wasn't at all impressed with the 1% pay rise that was offered after months of hard negotiating to justify any increase.  He appreciates times are tough but was able to clearly demonstrate that he is underpaid for the work he does.  However,  in the end, this whole process made him feel completely unloved which is why he wanted to meet with me.

From here, it is pretty plain to see how events will unfold.  With the help of his favourite recruiter (not that he needs one in reality) he will be offered a new job in the New Year for a small pay increase - the one he wanted from his current employer.  His old company will then:

  • unsuccessfully attempt to counter-offer the person with a higher salary than he originally wanted;
  • recruit someone else to replace him at a higher salary than the current employee;
  • incur a recruitment fee;
  • waste maybe 20+ valuable hours interviewing unsuitable candidates;
  • suffer a few months of reduced productivity whilst the new person gets up to speed;
  • risk a drop in morale as the current Team react to losing a good person;
  • potentially develop a negative perception for staff turnover in the tight CF market.

When looked at like this it is clearly madness.   Isn't it?

The reality - in my experience - is that this happens all the time.  In fact, the deal I was discussing in my last blog post actually collapsed over a tiny salary difference.  This company had been looking to fill that role for seven months and are now back to square one.

I appreciate budgets are tough but surely sometimes the bigger picture is what is really important?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

How much does salary really matter?

I woke up in Ipswich marina this morning.

Not literally in the water of course - it was a big night but not that big - but in the beautiful Salthouse Harbour Hotel (pictured - with a major headache.  Not just the headache from the party the night before celebrating the brief return of my pal Frosty - currently exiled in Hong Kong - but also pondering how to save a deal I am currently involved in which is falling down on salary.

This deal has made me focus on just how important basic salary really is to people.  It sounds obvious of course but, in reality, just how important is basic salary to you at this stage of your career?

In the specific case I am working on the Computer Forensics professional wants a higher - but not unreasonable - salary (and has been clear about this all along) whilst the employer feels that a lower salary with extensive training and other benefits is sufficient.  This balance is made even more tricky in an area such as computer forensics as, well, let's just say that not all employers are as keen to offer outstanding training and so it is a massive incentive to join a company with a genuine commitment to training and personal development.

On reflection, I think the real issue here is all about understanding what is important to people at different stages of their careers.  Generally, people at the early stages of their career tend to be driven by base salary as this is key for renting/buying houses and instant quality of life whereas in the later stages of a career areas such as pension, shares, and health insurance become more important.

On the subject of salaries, in previous blogs I have talked of my frustration at jobseekers with unrealistic salary expectations.  This week I spoke to one very strong Computer Forensics professional currently working in Law Enforcement, based north of Birmingham and earning £35/40k or so.  When I asked what he would need to earn to work in Central London his reply was £60k as he would need to rent a flat during the week and had other expenses to cover.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry but astoundingly (to me anyway) these wildly unrealistic salary expectations are more common than you may think.  What this chap didn't appreciate is that there are numerous people at his level of experience within commutable distance of London who would take the role for £40k.  Why would any employer pay an extra £25k just because he would have to move to take the job?

In my experience people tend not to get a salary increase higher than 20% of their current basic salary when they change jobs (although, of course, there are exceptions).  Not everyone agrees with this basic view and some argue that what you are currently earning is absolutely irrelevant as you should turn each interview into a discussion about how much money you can make/save an organisation and negotiate salary from there.

I like the theory but then again I think that world peace is a great idea too.  My advice is always to keep the 20% figure in mind!

Finally, I did laugh at this article ( describing Ed Milliband's new spin doctor as a cross between Alastair Campbell, Hunter S Thompson and Rasputin - just imagine that!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Where are jobs advertised?

On one of the forums this week a poster asked where Computer Forensics jobs are advertised.  Really, this should be an easy question to answer but, in reality, for all our specialist markets (including computer forensics) the answer isn't quite so simple. 

Unlike some recruiters who advertise the same/similar jobs endlessly (yawn) as a company we hardly ever advertise our open roles for a number of reasons:

1, Apathy

We aint hot on riting and can't be bothered as we would rather be in a bar with a lager from 11.30 am.   This is, of course, just a rather tame little joke (regular readers will know that most of my attempts at humour tend to be as amusing as a Liberal Democrat MP defending their current position on any given issue).

So, moving swiftly on to the serious points:

1, Advertising is hit and miss

Our Consultants and Researchers have worked in our sectors for a number of years and have large networks.  This means that we tend to know who works where and based on our market knowledge we can then approach suitable people directly for specific roles.  Advertising jobs is a terribly ineffective way of attracting the right applicants for all but the very lowest-level positions - it really is posting an advert and then keeping fingers-crossed for the right response!

The following example illustrates this point.  When we first recruited forensics specialists for the Met Police a few years ago they had previously advertised their jobs in the Evening Standard.  They then interviewed something like 25 people who all proved unsuitable.  Excluding the cost of placing the advert, the cost of four people interviewing the unsuccessful candidates was a tremendous waste of time and money.

There is also the issue of where to advertise online in niche areas as there are just so many different sites.

Out of the generalist boards we use Jobsite for some of our roles and they certainly give us the best response plus, in my experience, they are a pleasure to deal with every time.  Also, as sponsors of Portsmouth FC they are kindly entertaining me in their box for the visit of the Mighty Leeds United in January (thanks, Alex)!

Other sites produce a terrible response and are a real pain to deal with on a daily basis.  Seriously, dinner with Gillian McKeith starts to look appealing compared to working with these guys!  I forget which ones I have vowed never to use again but the thread below about Monster has taken on legendary status in our office (the 'hilarity' begins at the fourth response when the poster is rumbled):

2, Finding the very best people for the job

People who apply for jobs tend to be unhappy for some reason - sometimes due to less than perfect performance (although, of course, not always) whereas our Clients tend to want to employ people who are performing to an exceptional level.  In his fantasic training courses, the outstanding and inspirational recruitment trainer Roy Ripper (his real name, honestly: described this as 'finding the best people in the market rather than on the market'.

As recruiters the very essence of our existence is that we are supposed to find the very best people for any role.  If we can't go beyond sifting advert response then employers may just as well advertise the roles themselves.

3, Time

Although I constantly read from disillusioned jobseekers (presumably) that recruiters advertise jobs just to harvest CV's for most of us that is far from the case.  Believe me when I say that I really don't want to waste lots of time filtering through unsuitable responses and providing the necessary feedback.

However, back to the question of Computer Forensics jobs.  When we do advertise these roles in addition to our website it is either on Forensic Focus or Linkedin (where the number of job postings are rapidly increasing). I would also advise keeping an eye on the better generalist boards such as CWjobs or Jobsite as occasionally jobs are posted there that you won't find anywhere else.  You can also sometimes find gems on the specialist financial sites or legal-orientated boards like the excellent:

My advice is to always employ a balanced strategy.  Check the job boards above, make enquiries through your own network and, most importantly of course, speak to your favourite specialist recruiter!  For those of you who try to avoid recruiters and raised your eyebrows at that last line I suggest you think of it in the following way.   Even if you choose not to be represented by a recruiter for specific vacancies why not take advantage of the free market intelligence a recruiter can provide in the form of trends, salary advice etc.  In this market what is there to lose?

Finally, good luck the Mighty Leeds United tomorrow as they once more demonstrate their unique brand of 'total football' to the people of Burnley!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Oh Dear Ricky...

A very quick post to say how much I enjoyed lunch with my two Australian colleagues today but they didn't seem quite as confident as before that they would regain The Ashes...After a lifetime of watching the English batting attack collapse on a regular basis I have been sitting up through the night unable to quite believe what I have been watching - long may it continue!

Friday, 3 December 2010


Have you ever had a really bad experience with a recruiter?  

Hmmm, actually that is probably a rhetorical question and I can almost hear every single person reading this blog (both of you) either shouting ‘yes’ or else laughing hysterically.   Well, if you have, here is a great way to gain revenge and make any recruiter look really stupid.   It goes something like this:

1, Speak in-depth to recruiter (let’s call this recruiter, say, David Sullivan) about your aspirations and hopes;

2, Let David talk to you about a specific computer forensics role at one of his major Clients in great detail and appear excited about the opportunity;

3, As requested by David (as he is professional in his work), send him an email stating that you are happy for him to represent you on this specific opportunity;

4, But – and this is the beauty of this cunning plan to be carried out with all the transparency of a FIFA Executive - before you give David permission to make an approach you contact the company directly and send them your CV!

5, Sit back and enjoy the hilarious consequences as the company call David saying they have already received the CV directly and in future could he please act professionally and brief candidates fully about any opportunity.

Oh, the joys of recruitment...

Still, this isn't quite as incredible as the scenes at FIFA HQ in Zurich yesterday.  My friend Sausage (because he looks like a sausage, obviously) summed it up for me like this: "How can a professional bid like the one produced by England go out in the first round: even Audley Harrison made it to the third".  He has a point....

Have a good one!