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Be Happier, Healthier and more Productive in 2015

Posted By APSO, Tuesday, 08 September 2015

Be Happier, Healthier and more Productive in 2015

Recruitment, they say, is one of the most stressful jobs. Follow these great tips to ensure that you’re happier, healthier and more productive in 2015.

See the glass as half full

It’s easy to get swept up in the negative but rather focus on the positives and practice an attitude of gratitude. A survey conducted by the University of California found that groups of people who kept a journal recording just 5 things they were grateful for each week felt better about themselves, were more optimistic, had fewer health issues and slept better.

Take the first step

Setting goals is only the beginning, taking action is critical for greater productivity and ultimately happiness. Create an action plan to assist you in achieving your goals. Ensure that you achieve at least one of your action steps per day and soon you’ll reach your milestone.

Losing track of time is not necessarily a bad thing

We are focussed on accounting for every minute and chastise ourselves for spending too long or becoming absorbed in an activity. However, it is clear that we tend to “lose track” when we’re doing something that we enjoy – whether it’s work-related or leisure. Studies have shown that individuals with high energy levels and who spend sufficient time doing things that energise them have higher self-esteem, achieve greater levels of engagement and are more likely to enjoy long-term happiness.

Exercise…preferably outdoors

We all know that exercise is not only essential for good health but for mental well-being and stress relief too. But did you know that exercising outdoors, in the fresh air, drastically increases one’s energy and enjoyment, not to mention plummets our stress levels and anxiety.

Laughter it seems, is the best medicine

15 minutes of laughter raises our pain threshold 10% because it releases endorphins, the body’s built-in stress and pain reliever. Laughter is also a good indication of socialisation, a necessity for human beings. We are 30 times more likely to laugh in a group than on our own.

Listen more

As recruiters we spend lots of time in interviews, hopefully listening more than talking. In this regard we are ahead of other professions who don’t necessarily derive the benefits. Cultivating good listening skills doesn’t only mean you’ll make stronger connections with people and establish greater rapport, it also improves your ability to block out distracting thoughts meaning you can absorb more information, increase your knowledge and demonstrate confidence.

Do something for someone else

Altruism, doing something for someone else without an expectation of anything returned, results in what’s known as “helper’s high” that actually triggers the part of our brain that is responsible for feeling of euphoria. People who engage in regular volunteer work experience better health and less depression.

Choose your company wisely

A study of 4000 people over 20 years revealed that happiness is a network phenomenon. People who are connected to a “happy network” were found to be more likely to be happy “years into the future”. Your happiness level is likely to be the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with…is it time to change company?

No matter which, if not all, of these tips you take up, taking action to consciously improve your environment will help you to reduce stress, improve health and happiness and ultimately make you that much more productive.


Tags:  apso  communication  employees  employer  health  plan  productivity  strategy  team 

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What's in name?

Posted By Natalie Singer, Thursday, 06 June 2013
Updated: Thursday, 06 June 2013

Plenty; especially if you’re considering making a career move.

For the majority of skilled individuals, choosing a potential employer is a critical decision that could make – or break – your future career. For many people however, it is accepted as the "norm” that recruiters don’t divulge the name of the client until an interview with the client has been set up. This is not correct and flies in the face, not only of the APSO Code of Ethical & Professional Practice, but international best practice too.

Consider for a moment, the amount of personal information that is contained within your CV and the potential for disaster should it become widely known that you’re seeking alternative employment. Wouldn’t you rather know exactly where your CV is going, to whom, and for what?

The South African job market is in fact rather small, particularly for those individuals who have chosen to specialise and offer their skills within a niche market. It is critical therefore that you choose to engage with a professional recruiter who understands that you need all of the information, most importantly who the client is, to make a decision on whether to consider the job opportunity on offer.

As an individual who engages regularly with recruiters, I’ve heard all the excuses under the sun for not divulging the client’s name, from "my client doesn’t want their name bandied about in the market” to "what if the candidate goes behind my back direct to the client?” Each time, I gently remind these recruiters that candidates have a right to know where their personal information is being sent and that, if they offer the level of professional service we expect, they should not have any concerns about the integrity of their clients or candidates.

At this point, it should be remembered that the recruiter is also obliged to offer their client a measure of confidentiality. In maintaining this balancing act, the recruiter is only required to divulge the name of the client to a candidate who they have shortlisted and wish to send to the client for consideration. Simply put, this means that the recruiter does not have to tell every candidate who applies to them who the client is, only those who they plan to represent at the specific client for the specific vacancy.

For too long, candidates have simply accepted that recruiters are "in charge” and whilst they do wield a great deal of power within the recruitment cycle, individuals should know their rights and be unafraid to stand up for them. After all, your reputation could be at stake if your chosen representative (recruiter) does a shoddy job.In an extreme case, a candidate of mine (when I still ran a recruitment desk) was horrified by recruiters and refused to even consider working with me. After many conversations and the promise of a simple "cup of coffee and no strings” I finally discovered the reason for his apprehension. It turned out that a recruiter, who shall remain nameless, had sent his CV – without his permission – to a client that was actually a division of his existing employer. Needless to say, he was hard-pressed to explain himself when his boss called him in to ask why he thought it necessary to put his CV on the market. A completely idiotic mistake that should never have happened, had the recruiter done her homework; but definitely wouldn’t have occurred if the candidate was told the name of the potential employer at the outset. He would quickly have advised the recruiter of the link between the two companies and his CV would never have been sent.

Contrary to popular belief, it is never a good idea to have your CV out all over the place, especially if you’re currently employed or have a skill set that is in high demand. Potential employers are likely to be wary of someone who appears to be uncalculated in their career development process. What would you think if you heard that the candidate you were considering had sent their CV to every company in the sector simultaneously? Wouldn’t you question their motives or their ability?

Hedging their bets

Some individuals, in their eagerness to secure employment with a particular company, choose to give permission to more than one recruiter to submit their application to the same position, believing that this gives them a better chance of securing the interview, and ultimately the job. Whether this is because they doubt the ability of the recruiter, or think that if their CV arrives from two different sources, the HR person will automatically short-list them believing them perfect for the job, I’ll never know for sure.

What I can say for sure is that the opposite is more likely to happen. In many engagements with HR practitioners, I have heard the same thing over and over, "if a CV arrives more than once, I’m likely to avoid the candidate, worrying about the possible fee dispute that could ensue between the two recruitment agencies” or "unless the candidate was a needle in a haystack, I’d probably not choose to interview to avoid any unnecessary arguments”.

In one particular instance, an HR practitioner told me the story of their epic struggle to find a specialised technician. They’d been looking for nearly 6 months when the perfect candidate turned up... eight times, through eight different agencies! Despite their need to fill the vacancy the HR committee took the decision not to consider the applicant because they were concerned at his lack of control, planning and decision-making in respect to engaging the services of a recruiter, qualities they believed were critical for the role they were trying to recruit,

Whilst it often happens that an individual’s CV arrives more than once because they were unaware of it being sent in the first place, this can be boiled down to two simple situations. One, an unscrupulous ‘recruiter’ has simply lifted the CV from a job portal and submitted it to the client without ever engaging with the individual, or two, one or both of the recruiters has failed to divulge the name of the client to the candidate during their usual recruitment process.This situation could simply be avoided by ensuring that each time you engage with a recruiter, you make it clear that you wish to have all of the information, including the name of the client, before you consider being submitted as an applicant for the role. At the end of the day, you are providing the recruiter with permission to represent you in the particular recruitment instance, and they are not permitted to send your personal details without your express permission.

Protect your reputation

Understanding your rights will lead to a more constructive recruitment process and should ensure that your reputation, within the sector you’ve chosen to work in, is maintained. Always choose to work with a recruiter, ideally one who belongs to a professional body like APSO, who is committed to building a long-term relationship with you that is characterised by trust, integrity, open communication channels and above all, honesty.

By choosing to deal with an APSO member company, you know that their recruiters are bound by the Code of Ethical & Professional Practice that clearly outlines the minimum service levels expected to be given to candidates. Included therein is the obligation to complete a thorough recruitment process, including a formal interview; to understand your career requirements; to ensure that your current employment is not jeopardised; to gain your express permission to represent you at a specific client for a specific vacancy; and not to charge you for any of these services. And, if you feel that you have not received the required service, you have the opportunity for recourse via the APSO Ethics process, at no cost to you.

For more information, and to see the full APSO Code, visit

Tags:  candidate rights  employer  employment opportunity  job details  jobs  recruiter 

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Dress for the job you want, not the one you have

Posted By Natalie Singer, Thursday, 06 June 2013
Updated: Thursday, 06 June 2013

"Always be well-dressed…even when begging” Hindu Proverb

Professional dress can be a bridge or a barrier to clients, customers and interviewers. If they don’t like the messenger, they’re not going to get the message. Communicating professionalism through dress is important, particularly when being interviewed for a senior or skilled role. 

Who makes the rules about business dress code? 

Most people agree that what you wear to an interview matters, but how do you decide what is appropriate? Most of today’s job seekers, particularly Generation Y, believe that it shouldn’t matter what you wear, so long as you can deliver the goods, but considering they’re likely to be interviewed by a Baby Boomer who still believes strongly in corporate dress codes, this is not the case.

Your choice of dress should be guided by the kind of job you’re interviewing for, and the corporate culture of the organisation. Generally, a more corporate office will have a higher expectation for professional dress and certain professions, like legal and finance, tend to be suit and tie environments. An artistic role, like graphic designer, PR consultant or advertising executive would expect an element of creativity and boldness. Wearing a dull suit with no personality will likely cost you the job if this is the environment you’re interviewing for. 

Wearing what an organisation expects you to wear, including to the interview, shows them that you’ve made a conscious decision to be part of the team. If the interviewer can look at you and "see” you sitting behind the desk for the role they’re recruiting, you’re halfway there.

What about personality? 

For many individuals, the thought of wearing a uniform to work, whether official or unofficial, is off-putting. I mean, who wants to look just like everyone else, and how boring to wear the same thing day in and day out.  Just because there is an expectation for a certain look, doesn’t mean that you can’t allow your choice of outfit to reflect your personality.

A successful dresser finds a distinctive way of dressing that is appropriate for what they do and is a true reflection of their personality. A feminine woman could add a touch of the romantic by choosing a ruffled blouse in a soft pale pink fabric to wear under a traditional dark business suit, or an outgoing man might opt for a bright red tie to show off his bold personality.

The Power of Colour

Using colour does not only help your personality shine through; colour psychology can give you the edge when attending an interview or an important business meeting. Whether we are conscious about it or not, the colours we choose for our business attire sends a strong message. The image you project with a beige suit is very different from the way you’d look in a navy suit, for example.

 There are a few simple "golden rules” to consider when choosing a business outfit, based on colour:

  • The darker the colour, the more powerful the "look”
  • Monochromatic colours, like different shades of grey or brown, look sophisticated.
  • Bright colours are less formal. You’re likely to be taken more seriously if you avoid colours such as yellow or orange in the business environment

True Blue

Studies show that navy blue is the best colour to wear to a job interview, because it inspires confidence. Have you ever noticed how many companies use blue in their logo? Blue inspires confidence, trust and security and it’s no wonder that banks and insurance firms tend to opt for this colour in their corporate branding.

Yeah, Grey

Grey is associated with neutrality, respectability and reliability. It works well across all tones but should be paired with a small injection of another colour to make it more interesting. Grey is less authoritarian than black and is especially good for negotiation including during job interviews. 

Beware Red

Red is a powerful colour that demands attention. It works well if you’re giving a speech but not as well if you’re aiming to be seen as a team player. Depending on the perception of an individual, red can be seen positively – as a sign of confidence – or negatively, as aggressive or overbearing. It is not a good choice for an interview, except if used sparingly as an accent colour, because you cannot be sure how it will be perceived by the interviewer.

Green for Girls

Although green is proven to be the easiest colour for the eyes to process, when we think of green we think of nature, tranquility and relaxation. Green indicates informality, predictability and even laziness. Green should be used sparingly in the business space and usually only by women. The deeper greens, when used in a well-cut garment, are acceptable for business wear for women but should be avoided by men unless they’re dressing down. 

Boring Brown

Brown implies dependability, conservativeness and dislike for pretension. As a neutral colour, brown is a good alternative to black, navy and grey but should be accompanied by lighter, more eye-catching colours to lift it. Rich, warm browns are unthreatening and will help people to feel comfortable around you but beware of using them at functions or events where you’re likely to literally disappear into the woodwork.

10 rules for successful dressing

Think about these ten things when dressing for an interview, or important meeting.

Rule 1: Colour

Choose a maximum of 3 colours only and ensure that one of them is neutral.

Rule 2: Line and Shape

Select clothes that have clean, uncluttered lines and simple shapes for a strong, professional impact.

Rule 3: Detail

Use detail as a focal point. If you choose a pair of bold earrings or bright tie, ensure that the rest of your outfit is understated. Don’t risk garnering the interviewer’s attention for all the wrong reasons!

Rule 4: Pattern

Avoid mixing matters in a single outfit. Choose a single pattered garment and pair it with block colour.

Rule 5: Texture

Consciously combining textures helps to create interest. Pair shiny satin with a dull matt finish of wool, for example.

Rule 6: Balance

Know your body and balance any "out of proportion” area by adding visual detail where necessary. Balance wide hips with a top with shoulder interest, or use a solid dark colour on the bottom and a bright, interesting necklace to draw the eye up.

Rule 7: Proportion

Remember that unequal proportions are visually more dynamic. Think about the size and placement of bold patterns, large jewelry or hair accessories to get this right.

Rule 8: Harmony

Select individual garments for an outfit that connect with each other by picking up a common element of colour, line, shape or texture. 

Rule 9: Contrast

High contrast colours, like red and black project authority. Medium contrast cool blends, like blue grey suggest sophistication and low contrast warm tones like rust with cinnamon suggest approachability.

Rule 10: Emphasis

Use accessories to emphasize your ‘style and personality’ either to add a twist to classic business dress or emphasize attractive features, for example bold framed glasses to highlight eyes.

Don’t blow it by forgetting instant image breakers

It doesn’t matter if you’ve chosen an outfit that "fits” all the rules, if you forget to avoid these instant image breakers. Image breakers can be grouped into dress style, clothes maintenance, and personal habits and grooming. The most common turn-offs reported by interviewers include overpowering fragrance, careless shave, unpolished shoes, bad breath, laddered stockings, strange body odour, chipped nail polish, dandruff on collar, shoe heels in need of repair and scruffy hairstyles.

Personal hygiene and grooming are non-negotiable in any business setting but more so in an interview situation where all eyes, and attention, is focused on you. 

Plan your interview outfit and get it ready at least the day before you are scheduled to attend the interview. The last thing you want to have happen a few minutes before you need to leave the house is to realize that your trousers don’t fit anymore, a button’s missing off your shirt or your forgot about the coffee stain dribbled down your front.

Get a second opinion.  Ask someone you trust to give you honest feedback about your planned interview outfit. Let them give you frank, but constructive, advice on what the outfit says about you. Does it portray the image that you intend?

Remember that above all, you need to feel professional and confident in the outfit if you wish to make a good impression.

Tags:  accessories  clothing  colour  confidence  dress code  employer  interview  job search  personality  planning  recruiter  style 

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