Author: Lisa Easthope

Interview Guide for Candidates

Interviewing for a new role can be immensely stressful. A lot of the time, the more you want the role, the more stressful it becomes, as you place added pressure on yourself to secure the position. Being stressed or nervous before an interview, however, is normal – you are not alone. In order to take some of the pressure of your shoulders, you can ensure that you are fully prepared for the meeting.

It is the same with any business presentation. You wouldn’t turn up to a client meeting unprepared (I hope not, anyway) and as such you treat your interview the same way. Rather than selling the business, you are selling yourself. Granted, not everyone has conducted client meetings before, so here are some tips to get you through your interview.

Before the Interview

Preparing for an interview takes time. Frantically reading through notes on the train or while you are sat in reception won’t cut it. You will need to research the company extensively to ensure you can confidently communicate what you know about them and to display a real desire to work there. It’s a classic question, ‘what do you know about us?’ or ‘why do you want to work here?’ By reviewing their website and recent news articles, you should be able to answer these questions a lot easier.

Your research shouldn’t stop at the organisation but should extend to who you are meeting. LinkedIn is a powerful tool in this regard and is used by jobseekers and hiring managers everywhere – don’t worry about being seen to have viewed someone’s profile, it is almost to be expected.

Know your CV and the job description inside out and bring both with you to the interview. Having to look across the table at your printed CV to understand what the hiring team are referring to will come across as disorganised. Know your career dates and any key achievements stats by heart, so you can quickly roll them out when asked. Being able to articulate how you mirror the job description will go down very well and through asking searching questions, you will demonstrate real enthusiasm for the role.

During the Interview

Make a good first impression! Ensure you are well presented and dressed smartly. Try on your interview outfit a couple of days before the meeting to check that it still fits – we’ve had an unfortunate situation where a candidate had to attend his interview in casual attire as his suit no longer fit him! Plan your journey beforehand and if possible, do a dry run so you know exactly where you are going. Try to arrive approximately 15 minutes early, as this will allow you time to compose yourself before the meeting.

Smile and make eye contact with everyone you meet. Be personable and attentive throughout. From start to finish, your body language will be scrutinised, so be open! Crossed arms and defensive postures will not serve you well. When answering questions, maintain eye contact with the interviewer, or if it is a panel interview, address each person. I’ve had an interview where I have asked a question and the candidate stared at my colleague while answering. Safe to say, that didn’t go down well with either of us.

If you are offered a drink at the start of the interview, take it, even if you aren’t thirsty. You will be speaking for nearly an hour, so your mouth will likely get dry which could affect your concentration. As well as this, taking a drink will allow you extra time to think of an answer when asked a challenging question.

When answering questions, be sure to be concise and to the point. Waffling will come across as disorganised and displays a lack of focus. Answer the question that you have been asked (like with any bid) and provide examples and evidence to back up your response. Don’t spend time talking about skills or experience that they haven’t asked about. They may well come to these later, at which point you will be repeating yourself. Or, they don’t want to know about those skills as they aren’t relevant to the role. You are likely to be asked about why you are looking to leave your current role. Be constructive in your response and do not criticise your current or previous employers. Instead, do your best to flip it round and talk about the opportunity on offer, how it excites you and what you can bring.

At the end of each interview, you are likely to be given time to ask questions yourself. Ensure you have a list of these prepared, to the point that you have more than you think you need. The interviewer may cover a lot of the topics, so you don’t want to be left with nothing to say. Asking questions about the role, the team and company culture will display real interest. Remember, this is an interview. It’s a two way meeting and you should treat it as such. Explore the opportunity and ask questions to find out what you need to know to assess if the role and company is right for you.

More guidance on interview questions can be found here:

After the Interview

As the interview draws to a close, ask about next steps. This will provide you with a feel for timescales and how committed they are to hiring. As well as this, don’t be afraid to ask if they have any concerns about you as a candidate. Knowing this will allow you to allay these fears at the next meeting, or if you have time, at the close of the first meeting.

If you have more questions following the interview – either you forgot to ask or you ran out of time – you can provide these in an email via your recruitment consultant. This will again display interest in the role and the organisation as a whole. Conversations related to salary and benefits are typically easier to go through your recruitment consultant as well. They can remain objective in the negotiation process and can handle any queries diplomatically.

In Summary

Preparation is key to a good interview. The more you know about the company, the role, who you are meeting, and of course yourself, will give you a better chance of success. You will also be able to answer challenging questions more effectively, allowing your personality to shine through. There is no guarantee that even if you have all the right skills that you will secure the role. Team fit is very important, particularly if you are looking to join a small team. So, prepare, research, be personable but most importantly, be yourself!

Author: Ben Hannon

APMP’s Foundation Level exam in Edinburgh, course presented by Strategic Proposals

There’s a chance in May to pass APMP’s Foundation Level exam in Edinburgh, at a course presented by our business partners, Strategic Proposals. APMP’s certification syllabus serves two purposes.

It allows bid and proposal specialists to demonstrate to their colleagues that this is indeed a profession – not a glorified admin function – by attaining the recognised international qualification in our area. And, by studying APMP’s view of best practice – based on extensive research worldwide – it allows you to assess what you’re doing well, and to glean new ideas to improve your bidding processes.

Strategic Proposals have helped some 2,000 people through the qualification, and have an exceptional pass rate. Perhaps as importantly, they bring the syllabus to life with numerous examples from successful bids they’ve led, and proposal centres they’ve built. Bookings close at the end of April, and you can register for the event here:

If you join up as a member of APMP (the cheapest way to gain the qualification), you’ll then also have free access to a wide range of events across Scotland and further afield – as well as a wealth of online resources. We’d highly recommend the certification programme and this particular course to any bid or proposal staff in Scotland!

Happy National Apprenticeship Week 2017 from APMP UK

It’s National Apprenticeship Week, and what better week to update our APMP UK Members with the progress being made with the development of a brand-new Bid and Proposal Coordinator Apprenticeship.

In the last parliament, more than 2.3 million apprenticeships were delivered in the UK and the government is committed to delivering 3 million more by 2020. In July 2015, the UK’s Skills Minister announced that the government had approved 26 new ‘Trailblazer Groups’ to develop new apprenticeship standards.

One of those groups, led by Amanda Nuttall, now CEO, on behalf of the APMP UK Chapter received approval to commence the design of a new apprenticeship for the role of a Bid and Proposal Coordinator. The Group includes employers and professional bodies committed to being involved in the development of the Apprenticeship standards. Supported by the Department for Education, soon to be the Institute for Apprenticeships, and training providers, the group work together to ensure that the standards agreed will be suitable for large and small organisations, across a range of industries and sectors.

Now in the final stages of the Trailblazer process, the Group are designing the “End Point Assessment” methods that will explain how to test the full occupational competence of the Apprentice with a view to launching the scheme officially across the bid and proposal industry later in 2017.

In line with National Apprenticeship Week’s celebration of the positive impact apprenticeships and traineeships have on individuals, businesses and the economy, this week we will be sharing the experiences of two real life Bid and Proposal Apprentices who embarked on the UK’s first Bid and Proposal Apprenticeship pioneered at NG Bailey. We caught up with Vicky Coleman and Charlotte Rees to understand the impact the apprenticeship has had on their personal development and career choices. We will also hear from NG Bailey’s Head of Group Learning and Development, Frank Clayton, to get an employer’s perspective on the benefits of this scheme.

For further article from APMP UK visit their website

How to Hire a Bid Manager

Hiring can be a tricky business. Someone has either left your team and needs replacing, or you are in the positive situation of expanding the business. Hiring the right person for your team is critical and when you are looking for a new Bid Manager to join your team, there are number of aspects you must consider.

This hiring guide will provide you with an overview of just some of the points to consider when selecting the next member of your team.

Know what you need

It’s important to have a clear understanding of what you need from the outset. Take the time to assess the skills of your existing team, think about what you have and what you need.

Do you need a Bid Manager or a Proposal Manager? What’s the difference? It’s one of the biggest questions in our industry and a common reason for new starters not working out – get it wrong and you’ve placed a square peg in a round hole. Here’s a guide to the difference between the two.

If you are expanding your bid team, think about what skills will complement the existing talent in your team. If you are replacing someone who has left, think about what was most important about their role, bearing in mind you probably won’t find a like-for-like replacement. Have a list of ‘must haves’ and ‘must not haves’ – this will help in your selection process. In addition to what you need now, be sure to think about what you will need in 12 months’ time – perhaps more commercial or technical skills? Use the opportunity to future-proof your team.

Take the time to create a job description

This is a critical but often overlooked element of the hiring process. Much like you would want to see a well-written CV, candidates will react well to a detailed job description. The more information they have will ensure they know what they are applying for. This will result in more relevant applications. If you don’t know where to start, our website has a selection of job descriptions for you to review. Take a look at common bid team job descriptions.

Quirky internal naming conventions are fine for people that are in-house but you could miss out on applications because jobseekers won’t click on your advert, or you won’t be captured in their job board alert system. Keep it simple for external adverts. You can always reveal your internal job title at interview stage.

Money talks
Ensure your salary range is competitive compared to the market. Make sure it is sufficient to attract the best talent, if that’s what you are seeking. Don’t judge this purely against what competing organisations are offering – they may be struggling to hire themselves! The Salary Benchmarking section on our website can help with this. Take a look at bid team salary benchmarks (note that these are for UK teams).

If someone has left your team and secured a big pay rise in the process, consider that you may have been underpaying them. Be aware that you might not secure the same calibre of candidate with your offered salary – they left because they felt they were worth more.

Also, if you hired someone on £X in 2012, inflation and time dictates that you won’t find your desired candidate for the same money. You must either move with the times to remain competitive, or adjust your expectations as to who you can hire.

The interview process

Map this out at the very start. Think about what you need to know from candidates in order to make a decision. Do you need someone that can write content? If so, it would be wise to incorporate a written assessment to judge their skills.

Be open about what you can offer. If you can’t offer progression with the role, don’t say you can. It will only result in you needing to look for another candidate in the near future once the truth is out. To combat this, let the candidates ask you some tough questions too. It’s an ‘inter’-view after all.

It is always useful to get a second opinion, so think about who else you can get involved to meet with candidates. This has to be someone whose opinion you trust, otherwise there is no point. On the flip side, don’t involve the whole company as this will be overbearing for candidates – not to mention the logistical nightmare of coordinating diaries…

Know your decision criteria and process prior to arranging the first interview. Chopping and changing will lead to frustration and you may realise after 3 months of recruiting that you have already rejected the ideal candidate.

Don’t make the interview process overly long – you will miss out on candidates to companies that have a more efficient selection process. 3 stages should be enough to make a decision. Any more than this could cause unnecessary delays and put a drain on your resource. Time is money after all and too many cooks and opinions will often lead to stalemate.

Reference checking

You’ve made your decision and found your ideal candidate. You have offered them the position and they have accepted. This is great news but you’re not over the finish line just yet. A full reference check is vital and will give you peace of mind that you have made the right decision. You will need to obtain consent from your chosen candidate to contact their referees and you must only ask employment-related questions. More information on reference checking and a sample list of questions can be found here

First day and beyond

You’ve finally made it. Your new Bid Manager has walked through the door and is ready to get stuck in. Be sure to stay close to them during their first month. Ensure that they are settling in, developing the relationships they need and are enjoying their work. Provide feedback on their performance, so they know if there is anything they can improve, or anything that will help them settle in. Be sure to get their feedback too – it’s important to know if you can be doing anything better too.

Development plans are often overlooked. In the 2015 Salary Survey, 48% of respondents had no personal development plan in place and only 25% had attended a training course in the previous year. You should be putting in place a development plan for your new employee from day one. This is not just about employee satisfaction but also about future-proofing your team with skills they might not have.

In summary

Hiring is not an exact science and gut feeling will come into it at some stage, particularly if you are going to be working with this person on a daily basis. You will need to strike a balance between skills and attitude. That being said, much like any bid, the better you plan at the outset, the better chance you have reaching a successful conclusion.

Learn more

Visit to learn more about the services Ben and the team can offer.

If you’d like to learn more about the state of the bid industry, including the challenges they face, please download our 2016/2017 survey report

Author: Ben Hannon

US APMP Bid & Proposal Conference in New Orleans on the 13th June – 15th June 2017

US APMP Bid & Proposal Conference is being held in the New Orleans Marriott, so reserve your hotel room now to avoid disappointment. (Please note that the Pre-Conference and Certification Day will be the 12th June 2017)

Why Attend?

The US Bid & Proposal Conference is the world’s largest event for proposal, bid, tender, capture, business development and graphics professionals. Global industry players come to the Bid & Proposal Conference seeking tested information, proven strategies, and best practices to help capture, write, produce, manage proposals and increase win rates. They attend to gain:

• Hands-on education & certification
• Insight & cutting-edge content from industry leaders and inspiring keynotes
• Networking opportunities

Who Attends?

Meet professionals involved in every aspect of proposal management, responsible for increasing win rates and raising revenue for their organisations. They’re the proposal managers, coordinators, writers, directors, RFP leads, and sales and marketing professionals who are ready to gain valuable content from these areas of interest:

• Certification
• Capture and Business Development
• Commercial
• Federal
• Software, Graphics & Technology
• Professional Development

They represent Aerospace, Commercial, Construction, Consulting, Defence, Energy/Environmental, Engineering, Architecture, Federal, Finance, Healthcare, Information Technology, Insurance, Manufacturing, Software, Telecommunications, and more!

For more information please review the APMP Website

‘Sixfold’s initiative to provide Foundation training in Manchester proves to be a great success’

Last year Sixfold, one of our training partner, launched APMP Foundation level training in Manchester. These courses have been well attended and the feedback has been phenomenal. Based on this success, Sixfold has scheduled them quarterly for 2017 (the next is scheduled for March 7th).

All of the students elected to take the exam on the day and so left with a Foundation Level Certification from the APMP. This Certification will not only help raise their stature within their companies but it will also help their career prospects.

The day is about more than Certification. Sixfold weave into the syllabus a great deal of practical advice and guidance that will help attendees improve their job performance and their company’s internal processes. At least, that is the feedback Sixfold got from many of the delegates. Here are a couple of comments from the Mancunian students:

‘It was a great day all round and Peter, you were just a great instructor and I have taken so much away from the day, so much that I can hit my Directors with! They are very much looking forward to me sitting them down and going through the facts and figures of what we should be doing and why.
Thank you very much for a great day, so informative and I am very much looking forward to putting it into practice.’
Gill Tidmarsh. Bid Manager

‘Very much enjoyed the course last week and it was lovely to meet you at last. My boss is very keen to look at our BD and bid process in light of my new qualification’
Jean Isherwood, Senior Proposal Writer

Sixfold are considering running courses in Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow if there is the demand, so please do let us know if you think that would be helpful to you. Email

Fantastic initiative from Strategic Proposals to recognise the next generation of leaders in our Profession

Strategic Proposals’ ‘Rising Stars’ Award Programme

Calling the next generation of leaders in the UK bid and proposal management profession!

This year, Strategic Proposals’ is celebrating their 30th anniversary with a range of celebratory events worldwide. The first of these is their ‘Rising Stars’ award programme, with free training and activities for a group of up to twenty of the brightest and best young professionals working in bidding, proposals and work winning.

You will get three days of free courses (London on 5th April, and Stratford-upon-Avon on 12th and 13th September). With a range of industry-leading speakers, they will pool views on best practice, helping you to improve your own efficiency and effectiveness – and to win more business for your companies as a result.
You will get free coaching from one of Strategic Proposals’ senior team and there will be the chance to work on a short project with your fellow participants, looking at the future direction of our profession. (All they ask your company to do is to cover your travel costs).

It’s easy to apply (by email, no later than 17th February): full details can be found on Strategic Proposals’ website:

Career planning for bid professionals – top tips from Bid Solutions

It’s that time of year when a lot of people decide they want a change. This can mean a variety of different things to any one person but for a large number it means new employment. It is crucial, however, that you make the right move for your career, rather than change for the sake of change itself. To help, Ben Hannon and the team from Bid Solutions have shared a selection of things to consider when planning your career.

1. List your goals
Understanding what you want to achieve in the long term will help you decide what you need to do in the short term. This list does not need to be set in stone, it will more than likely change several times as you react to the environment around you, both personally and professionally.

2. Think about your likes and dislikes
What type of environment allows you to flourish? What are your strong points? Do you even like your strong points?

Being happy at work is crucial to being successful and will provide you with the motivation to carry on when the going gets tough. For bid professionals, there are a variety of skills that are all crucial when pulling together a submission, so pinpoint where you fit in. If you aren’t sure what the bid lifecycle looks like, you can read more here:

3. Look into professional development
There are a number of courses available to improve your skills and further your career. Off-the-shelf courses that promote bid best practice are useful for all bid professionals and will give you a solid base upon which to build. Further to that, you can look more specifically at the roles you wish to undertake. Perhaps you need to develop your writing skills for executive summaries, or maybe you need to use a creative software package to enhance the look and feel of your submissions? There is no limit to what you can learn, so be sure to explore all available opportunities.

You can find more information about bid training on the Bid Solutions website.

In addition to training courses, there are a number networking events you can attend to share ideas and understand how other organisations / industries approach bidding. The more you know, the better chance you have of success.

4. Keep your CV updated
Sometimes you can find yourself in the situation of unexpectedly having to find a new job. Having a CV ready to go will help you save time with your job search. It is recommended to have a base CV that provides an overview of your career and key bids that you have been involved with. Depending on the position you are applying for, be sure to tailor your CV so that your relevant skills are unmissable e.g. if you are applying for a bid writer role, make it obvious that you have written bids before.

5. Review your progress
Rome wasn’t built in a day, so be aware that achieving your goals will take time. Set time aside to review where you are in your overall plan. Are you on track? If not, what can you do to get yourself back on track? Professional development could be the answer, as mentioned previously. For bid professionals in permanent employment, it is recommended to review your progress on an annual basis. For interim bid professionals, review your progress either once every 6 months or at the end of each major contract. Most importantly on this point, don’t forget to celebrate how far you have come!

It is important to remember that career planning is not an exact science and these are just a number of points to consider. There will be many bumps in the road along the way and you will have to react to whatever life throws at you. However, the better prepared you are, the better chance you have of success.

As we say in our office, hope is not a strategy.

Here’s what other bid professionals had to say about their careers

Download our report on the state of bid management to find out what your peers around the world think of their careers. Download the report

Author: Ben Hannon

If a Competitor Makes an Accidental Mistake, You Can Stop it Being Corrected!

A simple mistake

We have all been there! The computer system has collapsed in the final hours of the bid or a document has not been uploaded in time on the portal. Or, as happened to us once, the numbers should have been in dollars and not sterling (saving almost 40% of the cost). When it is discovered after the deadline, the sales lead panics and the pragmatic Bid Manager picks up the phone to the client and explains the problem, pleading for understanding and some mercy.

When this has happened in the past, on many occasions the client’s procurement team have relented and allowed us to recover the situation. Not anymore!

In recent months, we have seen procurement teams taking an increasingly harder line when unforeseen problems have occurred. We have seen bids being refused which were only a few seconds late and the problem was the portal and not the bid teams. However, a landmark court case in Scotland last month, showed a court would only allow the submission of missing information after tender submission deadlines in the most exceptional cases. These exceptional circumstances would not include slip-ups made by the tenderer, however simple and easily rectified.

In this case the tenderer was bidding for a framework contract lot. It inadvertently omitted percentage figures for overheads and profits in two lots and submitted a blank financial template for the third. When the Council’s procurement team pointed this out, the tenderer realised its mistake and immediately provided the missing information which it had to hand. After several days, the procurement team told the tenderer its bid was not going to be considered.

Legal action taken

The tenderer immediately launched legal proceedings and argued that as its omissions were obvious and easily corrected, it should have been allowed to correct its mistakes.

The Court found that there was no duty on the Council to give a tenderer the opportunity to correct errors discovered after the tender deadline. The tender documents only allowed the procurement team to “clarify” information in a bid, but not to permit late submission of information which should have been supplied before the deadline.

The Court considered that the fundamental principle of equal treatment should take priority when handling tender errors, in accordance with PCR 2015. The Court also observed that the tenderer left itself no margin of error and only submitted its tender on the day of the deadline.

The lessons for us are clear:
• If you suspect a competitor is introducing new information into its bid after the deadline you should object immediately to the procurement team
• Upload a complete version of your bid (even if it is still in the final authorisation and tuning stages) on to a portal the day before the portal closes. You can always choose to update your bid later, but you will not be able to submit if you are late
• Find a detail obsessed individual who has had no part in compiling the bid to independently verify its compliance. Instruct them that they are only checking for adherence to the process and accidental omissions. Make sure you have time to respond to their findings before the deadline expires.

If you do find yourselves in a situation like this and want to get some quick advice on what your options may be, do give Sixfold a call on 01227 860375.

They would be delighted to give you some feedback and thoughts with no obligation on your part.

Places remaining on Sixfold’s APMP Foundation Workshop

Pass the Examination and Become Accredited

The next APMP Foundation Workshop and (Optional) Examination with Sixfold is taking place on Thursday 2nd February 2017

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) is the professional association for people working in any sales environment where formal bidding and tendering takes place. APMP certification is the global standard for developing and demonstrating proposal management competency. As an Authorised Training Organisation, Sixfold can help you prepare for and take the Foundation level examination.

The APMP accredits its members at three levels of increasing competence; Foundation, Practitioner and Professional. Once certified, recent salary surveys have shown that these members earn an average of 15% more than their peers.

The survey results are very compelling. For specific levels of accreditation, progressing from Foundation to Practitioner level typically attracts a 14% pay rise, whilst advancing to Professional level leads to a further 30% increase.

To start you down this road, Sixfold will guide you through the Foundation level syllabus and the examination itself, maximising your chances of passing first time. Should you wish, you can choose to attend the course and then take the APMP Foundation level examination online, at a later date.
Suitable for: Sales professionals who wish to enhance their ability to succeed at winning formal bids and tenders, including public sector bids.

For more information about all their courses please contact please contact Sixfold directly at or call them on 01227 860375.