Change masters are the leaders who motivate and drive the successful direction of their companies. They know that success starts and is sustained by excellence in staffing. Enlightened leaders create workplaces where people are the focus of the corporate culture and the customer is the focus of the people.
Welcome to the "Just ASK Dave!" question and answer page. This is the place for any questions regarding hiring, firing, interviewing...anything workplace or career related whether you are looking for a job, looking for people, or information - just ask!
Video will continue to grow as an additional method to gain attention and differentiate. If a picture is worth 1,000 words then a video can be worth 10,000 or more. The challenge will be insuring that the video represents is the best representation of the individual. They need to be professional, on point and, carefully edited. Videos taken in the back yard by the grill or on the golf course won't tend to help. Finally the video needs to be in a format that does not jam up the recipients mailbox.
Everyone has an opinion. I prefer to look at this a bit more strategically. The facts may be harder to quanitfy than we need for the moment so let me take a shot at this as if I were a candidate.
I would build a plan on getting myself noticed that included a variety of communications fronts. Included would be:
Niche Specialist Executive Recruiters
Strong Discipline Oriented Executive Recruiters
In Searching for Active openings:
Recruitment Firm Sites
Aggregators (Indeed.com, Simply Hired))
Niche Job Boards
Discipline Job Boards
The difficulty with job boards is they tend to be black holes. Getting noticed in the pile of unqualified applicants is tough. Applying just to apply is typically a waste of time and energy. That said some companies and recruiters use them. There are many like Execunet that cater to an audience that will allow for professional exposure at a limited cost.
I will close with this thought. There is an ongoing discussion about whether cover letters are necessary. I say absolutely. If 50% of the decision makers still read them why would you eliminate 50% of your opportunities by not writing one. The same goes for job boards. You need to selectively utilize them otherwise you are narrowing your field of opportunities. You need to manage your time according to the effectivenss of each of your efforts.
Q: I am an unemployed CEO of a mid-cap company who has been actively searching for a suitable position for almost 18 months. My search is taking a long time. In my case, I could have taken other positions and ended my unemployment; however, these positions would undoubtedly be "interim" positions for me.
It is clear that I would not be there anywhere near as long as I would be for the "right opportunity." For a senior-level leadership position, especially at the level of CEO/President, it seems wrong for me to take a position just to get a job. How can you represent yourself as a dedicated long-term player knowing that this is your plan? If this happened to me while I was on the other side of the "hiring fence"--I would not be pleased. I have been told that it could take two years to find a new position that is a suitable fit. Does this sound right to you? Does honor and honesty still count?
A: My immediate reaction was 18 months down, 6 months to go on average. However, these are not average times.
I see your point, but disagree with your philosophy. I would like to see you take on roles such as executive in residence, short-term core leadership roles, or any role that allows for you to keep as current and sharp as possible. My clients have very little pushback where senior candidates do what is necessary to stay sharp.
I am in total agreement that you should not accept a position where there is no intent to stay unless there is an agreement upfront based on time or disclosure of intent. In this case the work, regardless of level, adds to the perception of the candidate as both desirable and valuable.
As always, this is my opinion based on sharing experiences and outcomes with senior executives across a variety of industries.
Finally, never underestimate the value of perception.
The good news about modern technology is that trans-continental business is easy to conduct. Video allows for easier intrviewing and most clients are very comfortable with the process. So the process is not all that different. Identify the companies you are interested in, define your value, reach out to individuals that can help you brave the the storm and get started. You will need to begin the process at least 120 days in advance. As Disney said many years ago: "It's a Small World After-All
Q: I am a sales professional of 25 years as an individual contributor, with five years of leadership experience in high tech. My experience includes telecommunications of 16 years, five of which was in sales management. Five years of networking hardware and four years of application software.
I am looking for either a client executive or sales management role with a well-established company. I have a couple opportunities I am working on, but not completely excited about.
Outside of personal referrals/recommendations, how can I get reputable employers to notice me?
A: You are a sales guy. The first thing I would like to know is: Do you have a plan?
Let's start with the end game. Have you identified the specific companies that you want to work for? If not, then it's highly unlikely that you will get noticed at all. If you have--the next step is easy; time consuming, but easy. You need to research the companies' goals and find a soft spot. Who has committed to a result that you can help them achieve? Check out the company news. Officers love to be quoted--this is where you find out their plans, goals, needs, wants, etc.
Your job is to match up your competencies with their needs and strategies. If you are aligned, make the call. If you can't sell your way in the door with a conversation, they will never believe you'll be able to sell their clients.
You say you're out of personal referrals and recommendations. Where are the business referrals? Who are the companies that service your target list? Most companies either list their suppliers or are listed on their suppliers' websites as customers. As part of your plan, you need to identify those access points. No one can help you sell yourself. You have to do that.
Getting noticed comes with having something to say that is truly relevant to the listener. Find out what is important to them and make a case as to why you fit. It's hard work, but the rewards are pretty strong.
Q. With the pace of business and cross-pollination of technologies blurring sector boundaries, recruiters indeed have a challenge finding the right skills, talent, and personalities for the right opportunities. However, unless one is actively looking for a position it is difficult to make the time to create/maintain an appealing brand. Giving one's current position, the 100+% attention it deserves leaves little time to attend networking functions. Stating on one's profile the willingness to help recruiters will be of little value if they don't reach out to "busy" professionals who haven't the time to build and maintain a brand. How can this be reconciled? Perhaps recruiters would care to comment on the question: "Would you want the C-level person you just helped place in a company in desperate need to worry about building and maintaining their brand ... or doing all they can to apply their skills, leadership, and other capabilities to their new position?"
A: Perception is an interesting subject matter. I can see the point that is being made here.
From my perspective, keeping up personal brand is a matter of choice. The most important things to keep current are company, title, and core responsibilities. If you work at a level within a company that we have an interest in identifying candidates from, we will find you. Keeping up one's public profile and brand are actions that allow you to be more easily noticed. They are not the only way we will identify you.
Your check mark on willingness to interface with recruiters gives them a license to make contact with you but does not mean all calls and contacts will be about you. I don't look for permission to interface when I am bringing opportunities to the marketplace. I make the calls or send a quick communication requesting a short focused conversation. From there it is up to the individual to indicate a willingness to proceed. Those who tell me not to call again are certainly granted their wish. Most prefer to stay in touch as the world is an ever changing place.
How to reconcile the gap of expected attention and that actually received creates a quandary. Managing work time, brand, desire to change careers, and family often end in conflict of schedule. Like all of life, priorities need to be kept in perspective. If your responsibilities are out weighing your need or desire for change, then it is unlikely that you would be willing to make the time on weekends and late nights to better brand yourself. If your current position is keeping you from your family and the need for change is a high priority then I will assume that you would create the time and space to make yourself more visible. The trick is balance. Finding that depends on how critically out of sync with your personal needs you are.
For those that we assist in their new positions, our focus is on what is best for them and their new companies. Onboarding requires near complete attention to the task at hand. It does not however out reach common courtesy. In my 12+ years in the recruiting business, I have yet to be told by a successfully placed executive that they have no further interest in continuing our relationship. Professional Recruiters help create life changing events and wish nothing but the best for all. Most of all we want them to be successful at the companies that have trusted us to provide talent at a critical moment. Yes, as a new employee you should be dedicated to earning your dollars and thanking your new company through exceptional effort and performance.
Q: Have any of you experienced this: You have several interviews, make it to the final round, only to be the #2 in line? They like you and if the "1st candidate doesn't work out..."? The recruiter never says anything negative but they aren't calling. These are the large firms, and I have been working with many of them for years, providing leads/potential candidates, so it's not as if I only call now that I am actively searching for a new role. This is a senior level search at the CXO level. Is this just the way it is?
A: Two-way communication is part of a commitment to excellence. Managing expectations is personal. I would recommend that when you throw your hat into the ring for a position that has any type of intermediary, set the expectations early. Let them know that you want all the feedback regardless of positive or negative. For some reason people have a hard time delivering bad news. What they don't understand is that no news is worse.
Q: When sending unsolicited resumes to targeted recruiters, whether E-mail OR Regular Mail, opinions seem to vary, and the reasons vary. So I'm wondering what is best "on balance", when dealing with higher-end recruiters with which there is no prior contact.
A: Unsolicited = more often than not unread. Without some type of previous contact, reference point, or referral it really doesn't matter what method you use. That said, it is not that hard to get our attention. Try leaving a voicemail with a message to expect an email or letter from you along with why you are sending it. If it is an introduction request, be brief and reference why you chose them. If you are blanketing the world hoping to get attention...STOP. There are many other ways to spend your time. Buy lottery tickets for example. At this point in a career, individuals should be able to leverage their network for names of recruitment firms to call. Just ask the people around you or ask those that are in the discipline you are looking for traction in. They know--you just have to ask.
A. I see at least two resumes here; one for sales and the other for sales management. Each of these has a unique set of skills; although, the management resume would certainly incorporate some of the direct contributor high points. As the leader of a sales rep firm, many of the GMs have split responsibilities. Often they have both a set of customer service and management duties. This may require a 3rd resume tailored to the needs of a distribution type organization.
The rule here is to market to the audience. No one document is perfect for every position. What is a top bullet for one group might be a 4th bullet for another. Understanding the needs and culture of the potential employer will dictate the positioning of statements and facts on a resume.
Here's an example:
Company A is looking for a leader that has restructured a sales force and has driven results using a particular sales guru or program.
Company B is looking for a tenured leader with a history of leading a mature sales force through turbulent times.
The candidate may have done both; however, if one knows what a company is looking for, they simply modify their impact statements without misrepresenting the facts or having to totally re-write a document.
As for general postings on job boards, the candidate may want to post two different documents as well. If one has the talent to do two distinctly different jobs like manager or direct contributor and really is open to both, then I believe it is acceptable to have two postings.
As for a hobby, they are nice to have but can create potential distractions and should not be on a resume. Most leaders proudly display their hobbies around their desks and make for great discussion.
The rule is simple: Is the information I am displaying on my resume going to make the potential employer see a true value add for their organization? If so great. If not, leave it off.
Q: I am a 63-year-old senior executive currently serving as president of a consulting firm in the global bottled water industry. I have led public and private companies in this industry in the U.S. and abroad for over 20 years, with a very strong marketing and new product development background (Harvard MBA and Procter & Gamble Brand Manager). My primary skills are the home and office delivery segment of the bottled water industry and new business development (entrepreneurial/start-ups).
How do I become visible to the recruiter who is looking for a leader in this fairly esoteric area of home and office delivery (or other residential/commercial delivery service industries)? I have one more 5+ year opportunity to make a difference in a business venture, and want a shot at it, without being involved in the broad search and general "looking at everything," dedicated, senior executive effort.
There is a clear fit for me in this HOD niche, and I can excel in this specific arena, essentially any place in the world. However, I will continue to work full-time at my current position, and will not abuse the situation ethically by trying to work for one of our clients. I would appreciate any recommendations or ideas on how to be visible to those specific recruiters looking for this specific set of skills. Thanks in advance!
A. I am surprised that you don't already have a recruiter that you have used to build one or more of your businesses. Understanding that you are working and don't want to have your name bantered about, I would think you could quietly leverage your existing network.
In order to keep your intentions private and your position stable, you may want to reach out to a number of people that have worked on your teams and indicate to them that there may be "a need" for a recruiter that specializes in this arena--without telling the reasons, a simple request to former colleagues would go something like this: "I'm looking at couple of strategic options for my organization and am considering using an executive recruitment firm to assist. Who do you think I should talk to?"
On the surface, it appears like a question about hiring; however, it is actually a question about your future. The question is fair because your departure would create a strategic issue for your current company. You're not asking for any time investment on your colleagues' part so you don't have to worry about using someone, or feeling uncomfortable with the exchange. CEOs are always looking at strategic options so it should not raise any red flags. The goal is to get a name. If the same name comes up in a high percentage of calls, then your expert recruiter has been identified...then the next step is to start a conversation or not.
Q: Having crossed the 55-year-old milestone and recently downsized, I find myself in a situation. I traveled up to 100% of the time in past positions, and got paid quite well to do so. I find myself desiring less travel, am in a position to take less financial rewards if need be, and continue to be a dedicated team member; however, my resume rules out lesser responsibility positions from a recruiting standpoint. Additionally, if I don't have to relocate, my financial needs would be less than if I were to be required to move. How can these issues be addressed in a job search?
A. The issues here are not uncommon or unexpected. Relocations are expensive, disruptive, and sometimes totally unnecessary.
The key here is to identify the competencies that make you a great hire. What matters is your skills and experience, ability to transfer knowledge, and your willingness to stay fully engaged. Now let's cover the items one at a time.
1) The desire to travel less can be mitigated in the search process by showing a willingness to travel up to 50% of the time--still a heavy schedule, but 50% less.
2) Resumes don't rule out lesser positions, nor do they dictate compensation packages. One also should not dumb down a resume. What needs to be done is to have a couple of different documents that highlight skills and experiences that a client would pay for at different levels. This is always difficult, but very manageable.
3) Relocation: If the right opportunity comes along and relocation is an option, then leave it at that. It is an option. Companies want to pay for relocation less than individuals want to relocate. Stay close to home, target local opportunities, and the issue will take care of itself. If an opportunity arises with a relocation attached, then evaluate it on its' merits. Keep all doors open. Money should not be the deciding factor in a relocation decision. The company, position, people, and actual work to be done should be the deciding factors matched up against the typical family issues of aging parents, grandchildren, lifestyle, and more.
The trick is to know one's evaluation points and target networking opportunities that make those the most likely to happen. Focus on local companies, those with nearby headquarters, or those with strong regional offices. Network with people in situations where you have influence and can get in front of them to show you still have the drive, desire, and willingness to do what it takes. Have the enthusiasm and willingness of a rookie to learn and grow, combined with the experience and knowledge of a veteran who can deliver. Who wouldn't want to hire that combination?
Q: I have several questions regarding recruiters.
How can I get the attention of a recruiter? Does a recruiter have to be located near where I live? I am specifically qualified for a sales/sales management position. How do I find recruiters that specialize in my field?
A: To get the attention of a recruiter, you must first know that companies can find all the talent they want if they are willing to accept that an individual may not have experience working in the industry they target or that they may not have the contacts necessary to bring an immediate impact. Unfortunately, for all of us, the typical company engages a recruiter to identify, recruit, and manage the onboarding process of individuals from their competitors or those that are currently top performers somewhere close to their industry and their target customers.
Now, how to get their attention! Identify recruiters that have a stake in your industry or industries. The best way to find them is to ask the people you know who have been contacted by them. Ask those in your industry--a former boss or co-worker, etc. Ask a customer. Ask your competitors. Ask around your professional associations. Networking for a recruiter is no different than networking with executives. You have to ask. Once you have the names you can use your network to gain influence and be a name dropper.
On location, the simple answer is no--a recruiter doesn't have to be in your area. However, it almost always pays to reach near and far. Most recruiters specialize in industries or disciplines, work across the country and have reach around the globe through well established networks. That said, they are often very in tune with their local market needs even if they are not specialized in a given field. The message here is reach for a specialist and touch base with the locals. You never know what you will learn.
Typically recruiters do not specialize in sales. They specialize in sales talent for industries whose companies employ sales people. Almost all companies employ sales people or business development people in some capacity. To assume that all sales people have skills and technical acumen that are completely transferrable to any and all industries is like assuming all lawyers or all doctors have completely transferable skills. As noted earlier, it is best to seek out recruiters that have a stake in your industry
Professional resume wriers are a good investment providing the buyer has done his or her research and is sure the writer comes highly recommended--preferably by someone he or she knows.
Cover letters are a different story. They should be precise and targeted directly to the appropriate audience. They should address specific requirements if known, and corporate vision and goals if identifiable. Think "in the news", or "from the desk of the CEO."
When it comes to recruiters, we want the truth unvarnished...tell us who you are and be able to define your value. If you can't describe your value proposition quickly and effectively, how can you expect a recruiter to assist you in this life-changing event? On the resume, we look for impact. What were your specific measurable achievements? Resumes are designed to get recruiters and hiring managers to ask questions. If you can do that the interviews will follow.
The recruitment world has expanded beyond zip codes. Niche based expertise can come from thousands of miles away. The key here is to identify a recruiter that specializes in the areas of focus and then determine if they have clients in the areas that the candidate needs.
Where to find those recruiters is generally pretty easy. No need to go to the internet or any other published resource immediately. All sources will ultimately come in handy, but he best place to start is with current or former co-workers and industry contacts. Simply ask them one question... Who are the recruiters that have been calling you for referrals or positions in the last 6 months. Then contact those recruiters. Chances are they have knowledge of the industry and will be a great place to start. Then head off to do the more difficult and time intense research.
Hiring managers like to believe there is an unlimited bucket of talent with the perfect skill sets, cultural fits, industry expertise, and exceptional references available for every job they have, but the reality is that there are fewer and fewer highly qualified people available.
Similarly, candidates often believe their skill sets are more transferrable than they actually are. There is no doubt that leadership, organizational, P&L, and communications skills are generally transferrable and should be leveraged by many companies. This is where the plethora of candidates comes in. If the transfer of skills philosophy is true, then the number of candidates available with similar titles and nearby skill sets makes the decision process not only difficult, but somewhat like shooting in the dark.
From a hiring manager's standpoint, what can be done to narrow the field? One would say, "not much, I want to talk to everyone and then pick what's the best for me." Great concept, but Boards of Directors tend to want individuals today that can deliver an immediate impact to their core goals. Typically, that means hiring individuals that have a sphere of influence in their market space.
Here lies the answer for the candidate. It may vary based on what types of companies you are speaking with and how near or far you fall from "industry knowledge"; however, in general, I would say this: Narrow your search to a point where your industry expertise crosses the sphere of influence with your current or past employers.
Finally, I would engage an interview coach. Pick a professional, friend, recruiter, mentor, or other trusted advisor to practice with.
In the sales world, one would say, "customers buy benefits." Be sure that in the interview process your answers succinctly deliver a message of "what's in it for them?" Imagine the hiring manager as the buyer and it is your responsibility to deliver answers that provide him a reason to buy. Hiring managers need to envision how you will provide them a reasonable ROI. In interviews candidates tend to spend too much time on features (their skills) without linking them to the buyer's desired outcome. Many interviewers fail simply because they make the interview all about themselves. Yes, you are important, but only to a point where hiring you benefits a hiring manager.
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Not sure why these would be more challenging. The smaller the organization the easier it is to get to the real decision makers. The effort to network is the same. They are less likely to post positions in the smaller companies. They don't have the man power to spend their days sifting through the hordes of under-qualified or wrongly qualified individuals. So to infiltrate a smaller company stop looking for open jobs and look for people willing to have a frank and open business discussion. It's amazing what happens when there is chemistry.
Tell the truth, you made the best decision for your family.
If it were me, I would have a line right in my resume that indicated there was a position offered but you chose to remain where you were.
To a company, that might want you to relocate at a later date.
The answer is simple. Executive recruiters take communication any way they can get if a candidate really brings value to them. It's easy for us to read a quick email, but as recruiters, we like to talk to movers and shakers in our areas of expertise. You might want to try sending an email with a follow-up commitment that reads something like:
"If I don't hear from you by Monday, I'll call you."
Sometimes it is difficult to get a hold of us by telephone immediately since we spend the better part of our day taking calls...but if you don't try, you'll never know.
How discreet is discreet? The company appears to be failing and the recommendation has been made by the employer to get looking. I would say raise the flag and start networking. No need to be overly aggressive or to give out details of the health of the current employer. Simply get started by updating the resume, understand the personal criteria that the search will be measured by, and get networking. Having the activity will likely start uncovering opportunities.
Typically recruiters do not specialize in sales. They specialize in sales talent for industries whose companies employ sales people. Almost all companies employ sales people or business development people in some capacity. To assume that all sales people have skills and technical acumen that are completely transferable to any and all industries is like assuming all lawyers or all doctors have completely transferable skills.
To get the attention of a recruiter you must first know that companies can find all of the talent they want if they are willing to accept that an individual may not have experience working in the industry they target or that they may not have the contacts necessary to bring an immediate impact. Unfortunately for all of us the typical company engages a recruiter to identify, recruit, and manage the onboarding process of individuals from their competitors or those that are currently top performers somewhere close to their industry and their target customers.
Now let's look at the how to! Identify recruiters that have a stake in your industry or industries. The best way to find them is to ask the people you know who have been calling them. Ask your former boss or a coworker. Ask a customer. Ask your competitors. Ask around your professional associations. Networking for a recruiter is no different than networking with executives in a company. You have to ask. Once you have the names you can use your network to gain influence. Be a name dropper.
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