Category Archives: CVs

Metrics: If you can’t measure it – don’t mention it

The Peter Drucker phrase “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”  has been around in management training manuals for decades.  With some dissenting views, it is widely accepted if not as a business truism,  certainly as  a useful guideline and management tool.

I’m a big subscriber to that philosophy.

Why "if you can't measure it -don't mention it makes perfect sense".

Why “if you can’t measure it, don’t mention it” makes perfect sense.

Metrics

We are seeing a convergence between the marketing techniques usually associated with entrepreneurs and businesses with individual self promotion (in biz patois Personal Branding,)  with the the same measurable values starting to become applicable. Many balk  at this shift,  feeling that people are becoming commoditized.  But are they really? All this really involves is simply a move from a task and chronology mindset, to a result, achievement and skills focus.

Just as we don’t care about the detail of the business process for any organisation,  we are also starting to expect the same approach on individual resumes and profiles.  We don’t care how smart phones are made. We just want to know what they can do for us. When we  buy jars and tubes of emulsified chemicals from L’Oreal, we buy products that are hopefully going to  magically transform us – even if it’s only in our imagination. We are buying the added value. Why? Because we are worth it.

The management accountant who produces monthly reports and forecasts using Bex Analyser and Excel would be better placed telling us what he used that information for,  rather than describing the detail of the routine task.  If this can be followed with a metric and results so much the better.

If you are “young and dynamic”  I need to know what difference that will make to an organisation. If it means you have just graduated  at the top of your class with the most up to date mathematical models to support faster analysis of business processes at your finger tips. Tell me that.

These are just two conversations I had this week alone.

Need help identifying your transferable skills? Check out the individual coaching programmes

Forget cute, metrics matter!

Very often people are so focused on being cute, zany or idiosyncratic that their message becomes simply verbiage and we have no idea at all what they mean.  I am highly literate so always recognise the individual words,   but sometimes I have no clue what the person actually does in a joined up sentence. “Effective change agent,  crisis manager,  business turn around leader.”  A crisis could be a merger, takeover or a blocked loo.  What sorts of businesses, crises and changes? What were the outcomes? Can this person do that for us, is the over-riding question of any employer.  If it’s not clear and the question has to be asked,  the risk of losing the reader (me) has already increased. I have the attention span of a gnat. And I am slow!

Just as when we buy a lap- top we will want to have some information on the basic features (weight, operating system, colours, memory, hard drive etc)  the main questions will be centred around what value that lap- top can add,  how we can benefit from it and how we can best use it for our own purposes.

Job search processes are no different. If a computer had a “buy this computer”   sign on it, wouldn’t you ask “Why? What will it do for me?”

Candidates are no different.

Debunking 4 online professional profiles myths

confused womanMuch is written about professional profiles by many “experts” that frightens the life out of the average job seeker, or even passive candidate who simply want to have a strong online presence. The list of dos and don’ts is never-ending, with the net result that many are totally confused.

I’m actually confused.

There are many so-called pearls of wisdom written about what people in the executive search or recruitment business are looking for, which completely mystify me.

But hold on…..I AM in the executive search  business. Am I making decisions on these so-called “deal breaker” criteria?

Truthfully? Not really.

The reality is that many pundits are no longer (or have never been) involved in executive search and recruitment and are out of touch with the process or are not even currently working in a corporate environment.They are merely expressing a personal opinion, not issuing irreversible imperatives.

Are you confused about online profiles? Check out the individual coaching programmes

Let’s go through some of the main ones that cause consternation!

  • The LinkedIn summary –  everyone is in agreement that this piece is where the punch should be packed. It is a searchable field so should have a good smattering of keywords but not stuffed (over done in layman’s terms) Most recruiters don’t really care if it’s written in first or third person because they don’t have time. It’s not up for the Pulitzer Prize in literature.  Personally, I would avoid referencing myself by name and generally favour dropping pronouns altogether. But that is a personal opinion.
  • Text rather than bullet points is de rigueur  – recruiters and search specialists take about 8 seconds to read the top half of a profile – so it doesn’t really matter to most of us as long as it is easy to digest. The object of a summary is to entice the reader to scroll down and make contact.  If you are a bullet point type of person it makes no sense to present yourself as a writer of prose.  If you are a indeed a wordsmith, an editor or targeting a sector where writing skills will be important – this is a good place to showcase them. But by no means mandatory.

No. Not in anything I have been involved in. Ever.

  • Your CV and LinkedIn summary should not be the same – who says? I have never  sat in a candidate review meeting and heard anyone say  “You know, I think we should cut X. His/her  CV profile and LinkedIn summary are identical”  It just doesn’t happen. If you meet the skill set required by the job profile you will likely be contacted, unless there are other mitigating factors (typos, your biz pic looks as if it belongs on a police report  and so on.)
  • Put different content in both  – once again not sure why this gem is doing the rounds. A LinkedIn profile gives possibilities to highlight different areas of expertise and skills in greater detail because there is no space limit. It also offers opportunities to highlight recommendations, endorsements,  make a slide share and so on.  So it will, de facto, be different. But a CV should still include all the key points contained in an online profile, but in a more concise format perhaps using more complex  vocabulary and syntax to showcase writing skills. I recently raised a poll  in some recruitment groups on LinkedIn and most participants said they are now reading a LinkedIn profile before they read a CV.

What anyone involved in the search and recruitment business needs  in terms of content is what my back in the day high school Economics teacher Mr. Malcolm Thomas used to call C.P.R.: concise, precise and relevant. If you can write that with a Welsh accent you will be fine!

And this is where the real skill lies.

Personal interests: 10 CV dos and don’ts

There is always much conflicting advice from career experts on what to include on CVs. One of the areas  that has an opinion divide of Grand Canyon proportions, is whether to mention your personal interests and hobbies on your resume and if they can actually make a difference to the selection process.

Hannah Morgan, Career Sherpa says “No one really cares that you enjoy knitting, wine tasting and training for marathons. That is, unless, you are applying for a job in one of those areas. Save the space for more meaningful, work-related information. Have you included professional memberships or volunteer activities?

Stand out with your hobbies on your job search by  exhorts candidates to share their personal interests on their CVs. Why? “ because who you are transfers over to how you work.”

 

personal interests

Personal interests:  10 CV dos and don’ts

Do:  Remember that what is relevant will depend on the company culture and nature of the open position. Not all company cultures or teams look for, welcome or need, the person who does a fitness boot camp at  5.00 am every day before work.

Do:  include some personal interests especially if they can showcase or endorse your professional skills and particularly if  you have achieved some level of excellence or expertise.

Do:  give a range of personal interests which showcase your personality. I think Hannah’s example of a wine tasting,  knitter, who runs marathons could be a potentially interesting character.

Do:  be strategic and highlight those personal interests which could be professionally relevant, but with a balance: team and leadership roles, as well as introverted and extroverted, competitive and non competitive. Depending on the nature of the opening, I would certainly pay attention to someone whose interests were exclusively solitary or exclusively competitive.  Generally personality traits will be identified via any type of testing or assessment process anyway.

If you need help creating  an effective CV or any other career support check out the individual career coaching programmes

Do:  include if you played a sport to a high  or professional level or represented your country in any activity, even if it was some years previously. It demonstrates focus, discipline and energy. Plus skills!

Don’t:  include if you claim to be an international athlete light years before and it looks as if it was 50 pounds ago and walking from the desk to the door will induce a coronary.

Do: be sensitive with regard to any of your interests which might be “hot” issues for others:  certain causes, or political or religious activities fall into that category. It’s impossible to know the personal biases and perceptions of  the reader and interviewer unless they are in the public domain.

Do: share if you are using that skill currently via coaching,  mentoring or volunteering.

Do: if you think your personal interests will be a social ice-breaker and professionally relevant. It is becoming increasingly easy to research interviewers and companies. If the hiring company sponsor an activity which genuinely interests you – include it. I was participating in a search recently where the company sponsored the fine arts and one of the candidates was a serious opera buff. The panel Chair and candidate had a brief aside on Liudmyla Monastyrska‘s  role as Aida.  It was  a clear differentiator in that particular hiring process with a number of equal candidates. Confirmation bias exists.

Don’t: claim to have interests which are not real. If the last book you read was the Spark Notes from a university course, or the last movie you saw was Ghost or your idea of haute cuisine is opening a takeaway carton,  best not to mention them as interests. You could be asked.

I interviewed someone who said they were a “huge tennis fan“, but couldn’t comment on the last Wimbledon final.  As John McEnroe would say “You can’t be serious.

So like any other part of your CV the personal interest section is an opportunity to be strategic.  So I say use it – but wisely!

Why you’re in trouble without an instantly available, current CV

Be_PreparedI have seen two instances today alone where individuals were thrown off-balance because they did not have an easily accessible, up to date CV.

One case didn’t matter  – the other did.

With unemployment at record highs in some regions and opportunities coming and disappearing at record speed,  being prepared is key.

Test: if someone asked you right now to  send in your resumé how long would it take?

[polldaddy poll=7327913]

How did you do?

The world turns in ever strange but increasingly fast circles and the need to have our professional credentials readily available is greater than ever. None of us know when we might have a chance encounter or  an unexpected request to provide a current professional profile. These situations do arise.

What are the best practises?  

  • Keep a copy of your up to date CV on your tablet or smart phone for instant forwarding.
  • Not into gizzmos? Well store a copy in an account that is accessible from any computer: gmail, hotmail,  Google Docs.
  •  A complete and up to date on-line professional profile  with the link committed to memory or added to your business card and email signature. Connect immediately from any device.
  • Carry a hard copy in an envelope in your computer bag or brief case. There are still techno dinosaurs around.

Lesson: You can never be too prepared.

What other suggestions can you make to make your CV readily available?

Are you a job search bore? Story telling and job search

Craft an interesting story!

Craft an interesting story!

Story telling is a talent.

There are some natural raconteurs who have the gift of the gab. Most of us with less ability have to work on developing those skills. Many will wonder why that matters at all – but the reality is that it does.

Don’t people just want to know where we’ve worked and what we’ve done? Yes and no. They also want to hear what we’ve achieved,  but delivered in such a way that we don’t sound arrogant and pompous, or make them nod off into their coffees in utter boredom.

Synthesise

Being able to synthesise and take an overview of our own lives and deliver it in digestible soundbites,  that promotes engagement and creates dialogue takes a lot of work, especially to do it well.  Our story line,  whether this takes place in a networking event, in  a social situation,  in a formal interview or even on a date, is going to be very different each time.

I like to use the metaphors of hats. We wouldn’t wear a fascinator to the office or ski helmet to a cocktail party (at least not unless we were a little weird). There are times when we need to take one hat off and put another one on.   The type of information we highlight will also vary according to the context.

Just as if we were beinfascinatorg introduced to someone at a dinner party we wouldn’t  deliver our life story in historical order,  but pull out nuggets of interest, because to do otherwise would be really dull.  We have all been cornered by the sports bore who will give detailed, blow  by blow accounts of their last match or game. Or the doting parent who discusses their children ad nauseam. Or the divorcee who rants interminably about their ex.

Job search  

Anyone involved in the hiring process will tell you that the casual ” Tell me about yourself ” is a trick question!  Most responses will cover a chronological account of professional lives backed up by  the detail of the tasks carried out   “….in 1996 I joined Better Company as a Sales Executive  servicing accounts in x region.. and then in 1998 I moved to ” and so on.

Almost immediately eyes will glaze over as the hapless candidate delivers a 5 minute monologue,  giving a task focused chronology of their career,  rather than extracting key elements of interest.  I’ve also seen good story tellers be unable to transfer their verbal energy into the written word.  This is why many are disappointed about disappearing into a cyber black hole and not getting that vital call to an interview.

But even when that does happen, an interview can seem to be give us permission to deliver a soliloquy.  But this is a false impression. What is being looked for is an indication of what we are good at and whether we can bring that success into a new business environment.

How compelling is your job search story ?

The new actively passive candidates

According to research carried out by international organisations such as Manpower and Deloitte, there are many indications that after a period of cautiousness brought about by stringent economic times, a high percentage of employees will now be open to new job opportunities. The numbers range from 66% – 84%, but whichever one you take, they are pretty high.

 

Risk averse
The recent recession made those who were fortunate enough to have survived a dramatic downturn, risk averse. The old mantra of ” last in, first out ” played loudly in their ears. Now, with small signs of recovery, people are lifting their heads above the parapet, to step down and are willing to dip a toe gently into the job search water. In the executive search sector we call this category of candidate, “passive candidates”.

This doesn’t mean to say they are “passive ” people. It’s a generic term used to describe job seekers who are in employment, but who are not necessarily actively sending out their resumes , or are advertising themselves on job boards. For many companies, for reasons I sometimes struggle to understand, passive candidates are considered to be more highly desirable prospects. This is why the catch phrase “it’s easier to get a job while in a job“, is so popular and proved a huge frustration to job seekers during the recession, when many good people lost their jobs and were actively looking for employment.

If your organisation want so identify top passive candidates check out the  pages relating to Executive Search and Research. 

Actively passive candidates
Candidates might not be sending out CVs blindly, but there are certainly some very strong smoke signals in the air, with active self- promotion and the raising of visibility to the right people. This doesn’t necessarily suggest lack of focus. For the first time in several years candidates have choice and there is no problem saying that. As someone who makes those calls to candidates every day, very often the opportunity I present may not have occurred to the potential candidate. But receiving that straightforward, time-saving communication of “Thanks, but your opportunity is not in line with my current career plans. Let’s stay in touch.” is also quite acceptable.

Reputation economy
With this upturn, executive search specialists, passive candidates and hiring managers alike should find themselves in stronger positions. But all parties are going to have to up their games , as the sheer volume of possibilities kicks in. For passive candidates this is a critical time as we move towards a reputation economy, where everyone can be researched online.

  • – Make sure your online presence is precise and of high quality content to guarantee that key word searches are accurate. Otherwise you will find yourselves being approached for the wrong type of searches, which will eventually become irritating.
    – No online presence could mean no contact, unless you have a very strong actual network.
    – If you are not open to job opportunities currently, close that option on your LinkedIn profile. This should deter all but the crassest of recruiters.
    – If you are, contact details should be easy to find. Search consultants for the first time in years have a wide choice and if you are hard to reach, they will move on to the next candidate.
    – Make sure all your networking is strategic and you are connecting with hiring decision makers in targeted and researched companies. The right opportunity could be around the corner.
    – Have a polished up to date CV ready to send out at the push of a button. Hiring companies and search consultants no longer have to chase anyone too hard.

It’s great to feel the stirrings of a recovery! Let’s hope it continues!

Staying on message: A job search challenge

How much to share and with whom?
Another confusing area for job seekers is how much information to share in the job search process. This is another topic where every man, woman, child and goldfish has an opinion. Using buzz speak this is about brand alignment, when we are all supposed to produce consistent personal brand content, all the time. Staying on message can be a major challenge.

The irony of course is that any resume you produce might be correctly professional and neutral, but your cyber foot might leave behind yeti size tracks in its wake and you will open your mouth, only to change feet. Understand well, that you will be researched prior to an interview and there is very little room to hide. So how do you stay true to the professional image you’re trying to create, when there are so many ways to check us all out , especially as most of us have multiple interests and are multifaceted?

Staying on message challenges

Here are some issues that have been posed to me

Claiming a passion   There has to be back up. If you say you are passionate about renewable energy – make sure that there is evidence out there somewhere. We do check. So join LinkedIn or local groups and visibly participate. If you have multiple interests and goals then be prepared to explain them. On the other hand I know an accountant who has a fabulous blog on food and restaurants which he writes under a pseudonym, simply because he doesn’t want his employer perceive him as frivolous. In my view he is hiding a key part of who he is, which is a shame. Others have multiple blogs where they write about other areas of interest. Check out Gilly Weinstein a professional coach, who showcases her alternative interests in a blog separate to her professional web site.

Age and birthdate – this is no longer legally required on a resumé, but any recruiter with half a brain can figure it out. There is a double bind here. Withholding can send red alerts that something is amiss – either too old or too young for the position in question. But I suggest that you don’t include it, simply because you may be bypassed by some pre programmed Applicant Tracking Systems. But be proud of who you are and offer metrics that add value. You cannot hide all references to your history on the internet or air brush every photo. If you lie – you will almost certainly be found out.

Religion – unless you are applying to a religious organisation where your affiliation will be meaningful and key, then it would not be necessary to supply this information to a secular organisation.

Home address – I would leave out. There are some strange people in this world and you don’t want them pitching up at your home. Simply stating your city and country should be sufficient

Hobbies – now here I really go against many career pundits. People’s hobbies and past times tell me a lot about a person. They might show energy, committment, discipline, attention to detail, community spirit and many other qualities – so I always look. If your idea of surfing is sitting on a sofa changing channels, I agree that is best omitted. Those interests also have to be current. Unless you were an Olympic medallist , telling an employer of your university sporting achievements is only appropriate for entry-level candidates and possibly one level above. 15 years down the line regretfully they add little value, especially if you are a little soft around the middle.

Marital status – agree not necessary information, although many volunteer it. Do not include photos of yourself with your partner on professional profiles

Children – agree the CV is about you. Ditto about pictures of your children (or pets) on professional profiles

Links to online platforms – if they are relevant to your job application and have a professional content, they can certainly add value, especially a LinkedIn profile URL. It’s also a way of giving more information such as recommendations and a slide share presentation. They show you’re in touch with current technological trends and offer insight into your personality.If your FB status updates are along the lines of ” Yo dude… see you in the pub … ” Then no. Omit. Make sure there are no inappropriate photos online and you are not tagged in anyone else’s. Check your Facebook photo line ups are how you want to be perceived. I was horrified to find I had been tagged in a photo taken two days after I had surgery recently. I looked in pain – probably because I was.

Sexual orientation – this is no one’s business except your own. It is illegal to discriminate on those grounds. If there are any photos of you with partners in cyber space, regardless of orientation, they should be appropriate.

Life objectives – this is now considered to be old school and has been replaced by a career mission statement, so definitely should not be on a CV. At some point any long-term goals can be shared, but I would advise waiting until you know the person you will be sharing that information with. Any general, gentle social icebreakers such as wanting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, are perhaps best included in the hobbies section, in my book are completely OK.

Online conflict this is a tough one. Healthy debate on even contentious issues I feel is part of life’s rich tapestry. However, anything abusive or defamatory should be avoided. We are now entering an era where individuals are being disciplined or even fired for negative remarks about bosses, employers or team mates on Facebook and Twitter. The difference between this and a real life situation, is that your words will be recorded somewhere… forever. No one knows what happens to deleted material on many of these online platforms.

In today’s social media age it is truthfully difficult to keep anything completely secret – even your weight! The trick is to try to manage your cyber foot print, while remaining true to yourself. In my view this is one of today’s greatest job search challenges. No matter what you leave out, or how professionally neutral any of us are, it is very hard to be constantly on message.

But really how much does that matter?

What do you think?

Why you should network with recruiters /search consultants even when you have a job!

Networking with recruiters

The value of passive candidates
I saw a post from someone recently complaining quite vociferously about being contacted by a head hunter. The message from this individual, was that if he was looking for a job he would **#!** well let them know. I checked out his LinkedIn profile and his contact settings were “open for job inquiries”. So I was a little surprised as you might imagine, at the ferocity of his feelings, his diatribe taking up a whole page. I am very lucky. Most people are happy to hear from me. I am highly visible and it’s easy to check out my credentials. If on the rare occasion they are not, I thank them for their time and invite them to stay in touch. Most are super accommodating and know well that the next call they get from me could be the opportunity of a life time. Those that aren’t – I remember! First impressions really do count.

Why a polite two minute networking conversation is so important
Even if you are not active on the job market it is always useful being open towards approach calls. I can understand multiple calls can become intrusive – but simply changing contact settings on LinkedIn will deter all but the most crassly insensitive.

Future Opportunities
The latest Market Research from Execunet indicates that search companies contact 65% of candidates via networking and their own data bases, with an additional 14% coming from general research ( passive candidate identification). With more than 80% of openings comprising what has become known as ” the hidden job market” , the motivation for individuals to make themselves highly visible to search professionals or directly in contact with them, should be seriously compelling.

A good recruiter or search consultant will help you stay in touch with the job market and will contact you for any matching opportunities. This is not just about you! This is also the best way he can serve his client. It is why it is always useful to send a strongly keyworded resume to a head hunter, even if there is no interest at that particular moment, because the company will upload it onto their data base for future reference. Or easier still, as this will take only seconds, connect on any internet professional platform, LinkedIn, Viadeo, Xing etc. Just as importantly make sure your profile is always up to date. This allows you to appear in any appropriate searches and facilitates contact when a potential opportunity arises in the future, even if it’s years later.

Disloyal
Some individuals have also expressed concern about being openly connected to search professionals in this way, fearing it may be seen as a sign of instability or disloyalty to their existing employer. Truthfully, as companies have laid off millions in the past 18 months and job creation is slow at picking up, the concept of loyalty is being constantly redefined. My own view that not to work with reputable professionals or specialists is simply short-sighted.

It will be these very same people who at the first sign of a problem begin to panic and complain about recruiters not making time for them. Search consultants work for their clients, not you, so the best time to cultivate them is when they call you. The lesson that has been well learned during the last year is that strategic ongoing wide networking and raising visibility in this day and age should no longer be the preserve of the dynamic go-getter, but imperative for everyone. As we know, there is great strength in a weak network!

career coaches

A case for career coaches

 Why career coaches add value

I’ve seen much debate over the last months about the value of career coaches.  Truthfully I’m not usually this backward in coming forward, but I’ve now decided after much thought, to actually enter the fray. I prevaricated simply because as I am one – it seemed rather self serving and I would have preferred to have made a case for  accountants or lawyers than for specialists in my own field.

But as someone who has sought professional input for all sorts of areas of my life, I’ve always been pretty open to outside support for issues and situations that I either felt I wasn’t handling well on my own, or more typically was making a complete mess of!  So over the years  I have collected a whole pile of business cards from counsellors , educational psychologists, special needs teachers, speech therapists, tennis coaches, music teachers, golf pros, graphic designers, decorators, landscape gardeners, doctors of every discipline under the sun. And so the list goes on.

The most valuable lessons I have learned via these activities are:

• it is OK to ask for help

• an open mind is key

• friends, colleagues and family mean well, but they are not neutrally honest.  Do friends ever tell you your bum looks big? No. Exactly.

• professional help is a framework only and not something to be followed blindly without your own judgement .

• specialists generally can teach something

• I am not best informed  in most areas

• I trust myself to process information and take decisions

The pace of change

My son has learning difficulties, and struggled throughout his whole school life with some parts of the traditional education process. I didn’t try and deal with it myself simply because I didn’t really know what to do. I researched, read, talked to people and consulted specialists. Between us we coached him in building up life long coping strategies. He proudly graduated from university this year. Could family, friends and peers have filled that gap? No – because they didn’t know what to do either. Even mainstream teachers were out of their depth. The developments made dealing with learning difficulties changed at such a rapid pace during his school life that it needed specialist input to guide us and support him in a way that even I as his Mum couldn’t do properly. In fact some of the things that I instinctively thought were right as a parent, were not great ideas at all and could possibly have hindered him.

This is true of the recruitment and job search market – the pace of change is phenomenal.

Take action early

Another very general observation is that indviduals seem to feel about their jobs and careers the way they feel about relationships and raising children. We think we know best and everything will turn out fine on its own unaided. But it doesn’t  usually– that’s why people only seek coaches or counsellors when they are desperate: on the brink of divorce, their kids are in trouble , or they are unemployed.  Why is that?

Most quoted barriers!

A financial issue: For some this is clearly true and is always a tricky one to handle  as a coach. But  Brian Tracy suggests ‘ Invest three percent of your income in yourself (self-development) in order to guarantee your future” Even for financially secure executives that is not happening. With no job being permanent, investing in career planning should become an ongoing strategy from the outset of a career. So build up some reserve to cover this outgoing if you can. Career maintenance should be continuous– like maintaining a house and health.  Perhaps even now, if  at all possible some economies  might be made in other areas and offset against future investment.  Most coaches are sympathetic and may offer introductory sessions,  payments plans and so on.

For others – not always so sure that it is financial.  It’s about financial priorities.I know many managers who if their tee shot hooked into the rough ten times in a row, they would be signed up with the golf pro quicker than you could say Tiger Woods or ProAm. But 10 CVs disappearing into cyber space they somehow see as being different.

 Hard  to identify a good coach : Many of us own homes, cars or TVs  and have participated in choosing service providers in all areas of our lives. Why all of a sudden this disempowerment? We have to trust our instincts and if we don’t get it right first time, change to another. We don’t buy the first car we see. We check out the dealer, take it for a ride, look under the hood and so on! Selecting a coach is no different . You can verify coaching qualifications, affiliations, ask for “chemistry” session and referrals.

OK… suggest you don’t look under the hood though! Could be a problem.

Coaches take advantage of our situation:  once again I hear the disempowerment  line.  The only person who allows someone to take advangatage of us –  is ourselves.  Besides it’s the same as saying mechanics take advantage of  people with broken down cars. The provision of this service  has always been on offer –  the need is  just greater at certain times. So do you push your car yourself  from  the roadside  miles from  your home or phone a breakdown service?   Right. Didn’t think so.  Of course  you make the call.

Coaches can’t guarantee  a job :  No they can’t. No one can. What they can give you are life long tools and strategies that build up core competencies in dealing with change on your own.    They are a neutral sounding board for any ideas,  now matter how off beat. They’ll support you as you  align your professional and personal goals and give you open and construtive feedback  in identifying your transferrable skills,  understanding your success stories and marketing your message.

What I would like to see  most of all is a cultural shift to normalising career support in the way that relationship  support and life coaching is gaining acceptance even in Europe. Schools and colleges offer this service but then it stops. We spend over one third of our day working!  I am always amazed why so many people can be so unstructured and almost cavalier about such a significant activity that takes up so much time and  mportantly energy, but can cause so much stress and heartache when things go wrong.

One lesson we all must have learned over the past months is that nothing is permenant and we should start to plan for our futures when we can. That  has to be now surely.

Who to trust

Executive search and recruitment: Who to trust…!

How do you know who to trust in an executive search process?

Many job seekers are often perplexed about how to handle unexpected calls from executive search or recruitment consultants. This is understandable, because even in digital world, the process essentially involves releasing personal information over the phone to total strangers which is somehow more intimate! So how do you respond to those cryptic messages and conversations and know who to trust. They could indeed lead to a golden opportunity for the dream job, but could equally turn out to be pernicious scams.

Why so cryptic? Discretion is in everyone’s interest. It is important to understand that very often the consultant’s hands are tied by their client who want any executive searches or recruitment drives kept under the radar for operational and strategic business reasons. Many companies don’t want their competitors to know what their plans are. Also as a potential candidate you may not want the process broadcast either. One high flying C level executive was approached by an executive search company to join a competitor. Somewhere during the process, (at the client  end, not the search company I should add) confidentiality was breached and the exec was subsequently let go by his employer.

So how do you know who to trust? What is the best way to deal with consultants who might contact you? If you follow the basic guidelines you will be able to establish pretty easily who can best represent you and the sort of red flags you should be looking out for.

1. Establish the identity of the caller: Get all the contact information immediately. Ask for the name of the consultant and the company they represent. Verify spellings, web site details and phone numbers. If possible ask about the specific opening they are calling about, the job title or level, the client company and any other details. Do not be overly concerned if the consultant will only give a thumb nail sketch – it is quite normal to be very discreet at this stage. A good, experienced consultant should be able to outline a position succinctly in a matter of minutes. I would suggest that there is very little to be lost at this point other than some time to at least hearing more about the opportunity if you are open for a career move.

2. Schedule a call at a later date: preferably from, and to, a land line. Most ethical and professional recruiters are happy to oblige. If they are not prepared to do this, the chances are that they are working to meet daily targets. I would advise you to consider that thought seriously before continuing.

3. Environment: Arrange to speak in a quiet environment away from disturbances and interruptions. This could be that dream job we spoke about! Cars or kids combined with mobile phones are both high risk!

4. Research the caller: Check out the recruiters profile on LinkedIn or the company web site. Check if the company is a member of a professional body. If the consultant lacks experience in search (e.g. if he/she were selling real estate or shoes 3 months previously) and doesn’t have the necessary professional qualifications – be cautious. As someone who contacts candidates regularly I am happy to let anyone know how to check my credentials. My LinkedIn profile reference is included in my email address. All my qualifications and experience are listed in full on LinkedIn, together with professional recommendations. My email address also includes blog details which has an informative bio at the side. All this indicates to candidates that I am exactly who I say I am, so I never have credibility issues and am actually never even asked.

5. Research the opportunity: so you can present yourself in the best possible light and prepare appropriate questions. This call is part of the selection process and should be treated seriously. First impressions do count.

6. Verify the relationship with the client company: This is another way of asking if the consultant actually has the recruiting assignment. Some unethical recruiters go on fishing expeditions to harvest CVs to sell on later.

7. Is the arrangement for the search exclusive? This will let you know if they are a retained search company or if they are competing with other companies to present their candidates.

8. Query your suitability: Ask the consultant why he/she believes you might be suitable for the position. This opens a discussion that indicates if the consultant understands the job profile. It also tells you what you need to know so that you can orientate your CV if you decide to proceed.

9. Ask about the time frame and the process: If they are evasive – that is a red flag. This can present issues for consultants, but an ethical consultant should be able to outline the process with a broad brush time frame. Thorough searches generally take between 3 and 6 months.

10. Ask for a profile. Preferred suppliers usually have an outline of one as a basic minimum, or can make a profile available after the initial contact. Clients don’t want organisational details flying around cyber space until there is confirmed genuine interest. If there is any continued evasiveness, even at the client level about the job content, reporting arrangements, how performance will be measured – be very cautious

Take a look at these trusted executive search and research solutions!

What to look out for….

1. CV Harvesters : if a recruiter can’t specify a specific search or a company – be cautious. Sometimes, as I explained, the company name is confidential, which to be fair happens frequently. However, a consultant can say for example “ US, multi-national, Fortune 500, B2B electronics , based in xx” etc.)

2. Protect your contact information if you have any doubts: CV harvesters can pass on your resume to aggregators. These CVs are then used to cull contact information which is subsequently sold to the highest bidders. Don’t include your home address and do use a public email such as gmail.

3. Vague or unresponsive to your direct questions: usually indicates a lack of knowledge = competence and perhaps even integrity. See above

4. The Trojan horse: Occasionally recruiters contact companies with known preferred suppliers, but where they are aware of an open vacancy. The consultant will go through the motions of presenting you as a candidate, even though candidates from the preferred supplier will get priority consideration. There is a risk that your application will be associated with a disreputable recruiter, which may jeopardise future and genuine applications.

5. Sales Targets: Some recruiting companies have a resume quota for their recruiters. They have to make x calls per day and receive x CVs per day. This encourages new recruiters to get resumes with any story possible. The chances of your resume being used for anything positive are very slim.

6. Arbitrary circulation of your CV: Resumes are randomly sent to prospective employers, with the recruiter’s contact information, not yours. Most companies do not follow-up on unsolicited resumes submitted by unknown recruiters. At best it will disappear at worst it will be associated with a poor recruiter.

7. Beware of job boards: Some unethical companies submit CVs to job boards. There your name and contact information are deleted and substituted with the recruiter’s details. Companies interested in your credentials, then have to go through the recruiter and split fees. One photovoltaic expert looking for a candidate for her own department, found what could only have been her own doctored CV on a job board!

Most search companies especially at the higher end of the market have strong reputations and would not want to damage those with unprofessional conduct. They are bound by codes of ethics from their professional bodies. These are just words of caution to protect against the odd ” cowboys” that occasionally creep into any sector!

Good luck!