Inspired by the top tips for graduates and new job seekers, I thought about how many of these rules apply to senior candidates too. From the daily conversations I have with senior executives on behalf of our clients, these are the points I’d advise senior candidates to consider before entering the recruitment process:
1. CV writing
The CV is still important even at this level. We often see the poorest CVs at the most senior level and whilst it seems old-fashioned, the written CV does still count for a lot and it is still the client’s first impression. Some we see are out of date, not thoroughly thought out, or are overly verbose. Keep the CV as succinct as possible; most clients are looking for bullet-pointed, measurable, achievements.
2. Senior people still need to sell themselves
Recently we have had feedback that some candidates have been ‘too comfortable’ in interviews. Senior candidates who have the weight of a strong career history behind them are perhaps less inclined to openly demonstrate they ‘really want the job’ as one client told us. Senior hires still need to sell themselves. Also, be aware of cultural norms when it comes to interview behaviour as the level of formality differs between countries and these perceptions can determine whether or not a candidate is taken forwards.
3.Think about wider implications
Before getting to offer stage, consider what the move would mean for you and your family; particularly if relocation overseas is involved. Too often we see offers fall through at the last minute because a family member gets cold feet when it gets serious. At the start of the process candidates should ask themselves questions about the personal impacts of the opportunity such as whether their partner could work in the country where the role is based, have look at schooling systems, and discuss with family whether they are open to a move.
4. Think about why you are different
For a senior hire, clients are often looking for ‘game-changing talent’, someone who can make a difference and effect real organisational change. Do your homework, know about the current incumbent, and market your USP. Clients can be underwhelmed when presented with an ‘executive clone’.
5. Talk positive
Use positive language to talk about the impact you can make and the change you can bring about rather than pointing out shortcomings of the business. Often well intended remarks can be taken the wrong way by the client if you come across as fault-finding rather than providing positive ideas and enthusiasm. Practice the right kind of vocabulary for this type of discussion.
6. Beware references
In an increasingly globalised market with fluid careers and shorter tenures, referencing is becoming more important. Provide references that will show you in your best light and be aware that for a senior role clients will often go ‘off-list’ for references. Off-list means the client will potentially look up old managers, peers and those who reported into you; so be aware of this and head-off any potential danger areas in early conversations. We have seen candidates rejected in the later stages due to the nature of references received via the client’s contacts.
7. Cultural fit
Even when our candidates meet the brief to a tee, we often find organisations cite cultural fit as a reason not to proceed This could be anything from ‘too arrogant’, ‘too competitive’, ‘too aggressive’ or ‘not enough gravitas during our Skype call’ are recent examples of feedback. The influence that cultural fit has cannot be overestimated. Find out about the culture of the organisation before your first contact as first impressions really count here. At Armstrong Craven we will do our best to articulate the corporate culture and gauge fit to candidates – and if we put someone forward we already believe there is some fit for that organisation.
At Armstrong Craven we will do our best to find out who we can and can’t approach for a role but there are instances where we may not know whether a candidate is ‘off limits’. A candidate may be ‘off-limits’ if they have recently been placed in a firm by an executive recruitment firm or if there are agreements in place between individuals and employers/ ex-employers. If you know of any reason why you may not be eligible to make a move then raise this at the outset if it’s not been picked up by the client organisation.
9. Niche skills and specific criteria
It’s important to be frank about specialist skills up front even if the organisation initially seems flexible on the level of skill required. In some instances although initial meetings and interviews go well, when it comes down to meeting hiring or line managers, they can be a lot more particular about specific skill requirements.
10. Leaving your current employer
If you do decide to make the move, think about how you will deliver the message to your current employer and what their reaction might be. Have a strategy for all possible reactions to your resignation to maximise the chances of remaining on good terms. Decide how you will deal with potential counter offers.
José Ramón Bravo is a Client Delivery Manager at Armstrong CravenBack to blog