Advice from an Executive Recruitment Insider

The Recruitment industry is tough and intensely competitive. The landscape is fragmented by good, bad and indifferent recruiters, who earn their keep on a retained or contingency basis, at various points in the permanent and contracting markets.

It’s both a mystery and source of frustration to job-hunters, especially post-redundancy.

For all these reasons, it’s critical that executives understand the role recruiters play in their careers. I decided to get an update from an Executive Recruitment Insider.

Jeremy Wurm is a Melbourne-based executive search and selection consultant who’s built a successful long-term career, despite the state of the economy.

For 27 years, including 15 years at the helm of his Melbourne-based firm Brooker Consulting, Jeremy has sourced and placed C-suite and General Management level candidates across a wide range of sectors, including Education and Health, on an international basis. In Australia, Jeremy’s also consolidated his reputation as a leading consultant in the Not-for-Profit and Biotechnology sectors.

As Jeremy celebrates Brooker Consulting’s 15th anniversary this month, I turned the tables and interviewed him about what executives need to know about recruitment consultants and managing their careers, during job-search and redundancy.

Here are the key takeaways from my recent discussion with Jeremy.

Recruiters

The recruiter’s role is to be an honest broker between the (prospective) employer and employee. While the recruiter doesn’t find jobs for people, he or she should educate candidates accordingly.

Look for and contact any recruiter with knowledge of your target industry. Recruiters can be responsive to ad hoc approaches from executives with relevant and interesting expertise. This often results in a mutually beneficial cafe ‘networking’ conversation.

Job candidates

Follow instructions. If an advertisement asks for a four-page word version resume, comply.

Forget cover letters – your time is better used tailoring your resume to the position description. And make sure your resume does you justice.

Do your homework and go to interviews well prepared.  Research people you’re going to be interviewed by, check the background of board members, talk to someone who works at the organisation, and/or recently left the organisation.

Don’t waffle during interviews but do articulate how you add value to an organisation. Authenticity is critical – there should be no surprises.

Redundancy

Redundancy can be viewed as an advantage. It means you can start in a job earlier. Position the redundancy well, and ensure that the reason for leaving your previous employer is consistent with those shared by referees.

Spend time on yourself, be positive and upbeat, and don’t be disparaging about previous employers.

Attend a career transition program if available, and take time to extract the benefit and use it to launch the next phase of your career. Get a business card and join or reignite professional associations.

Call recruiters referred to you by professional contacts, and mention their name by way of introduction. Ask for advice and who their competitors are in that sector, rather than ask for a job. Stay in touch (but not too often) and keep an eye on their website.

Networking

Go to every networking event, whether it’s a breakfast or a fashion parade. You never know who you’ll meet. Don’t be the person with the abandoned nametag on the registration table at the end of the event!

Engage in coffee conversations – you know more people than you think you know – they know people and like to help.

If you don’t enjoy networking “suck it up!” – hang out with an extravert or take someone along with you. It’s a necessary evil.

Career planning

You don’t know when the next job will come up. Be receptive to something out of left field.

You need to be connected – the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Get exposure to governance by joining boards and/or becoming a member of AICD. If you have CEO aspirations, get to know board members – ultimately they make CEO appointments.

Volunteer, contribute to society and promote corporate social responsibility.

Mentor others and develop stakeholder engagement skills.

ABOUT JEREMY WURM
Following a marketing career in Europe, Jeremy commenced international executive search in London. He relocated back to Australia in 1989 where he joined Elite Consulting Group in his home town Adelaide. After Elite was acquired by Tony Beddison’s SACS Consulting Group during the “the recession we had to have”, Jeremy relocated to Melbourne. In 1999, Jeremy left SACS to start his own executive search and selection firm Brooker Consulting.
Photo: The Melbourne Headshot Company

Why You Should Write Your Own Resume

While there are some excellent professional resume writers out there, I prefer to see you write your own resume.

When you write your own resume, you own, interpret and represent your value proposition to prospective employers.

Resumes are dynamic

In most cases, you will need to customise your resume for a specific position. Even if you’re happy in a job, you can update achievements in your resume anytime. Some industries and professions have resume standards. As you do the due diligence, you will gather more information, and may need to tweak your resume along the way.

Templates are tedious

As recruitment consultants and in-house recruitment teams can scan hundreds of documents a day, they see a lot of cookie-cutter resumes. As long as you follow the golden rules for resume writing, a distinctive resume will help you stand out from the pack.

I skip cover letters

After many years in recruitment roles, I tend to pounce on the resume and overlook the cover letter altogether. This habit can be to your detriment (and mine!), as candidates often mention career gems in the letter, which aren’t in their resume. Your resume should be able to stand alone, and showcase you as a convincing candidate.

You think more

In the age of  ‘personal branding’, you need to articulate your strengths and what you offer a future employer. Self-assessment is a pre-requisite for developing and launching a resume into the market. If you’ve done this, and taken the time to think how your experience lends itself to the opportunity, you’re making a commitment. It shows.

Speak as you write

If you’re crafted the document yourself, you’re more likely to recall details and reflect your writing in your speech. Much like defending a thesis, it’s easier to be interviewed against a resume that you’ve slaved over. If there is any conflict between the two, alarm bells start ringing!

You appear authentic

When you compose your resume, you decide what stays, and what goes. You haven’t been styled by anyone else. The fact that you’ve done the homework says you care enough about what the role and the organisation requires, and how you might add value to a prospective employer.

Allow your personality to shine

A hand-crafted resume gives me a glimmer of your personality. While they are ticking the boxes, good recruiters are also reading between the lines. All things being equal, an indefinable sizzle may spark their interest, and put your resume on top of the pile .

There is one proviso to all of the above – please observe the golden rules as you draft your resume. Although there are plenty of best practice resume writing tips in the public domain, check that they’re relevant to your market. And before clicking on the send button, seek input and feedback from a range of professionals within your network. Their perception of your strengths and career achievements will be invaluable as you put the final touches on your resume.

Have I convinced you to write your own resume?


Do You Know Your Recruiters?

Executive Recruitment consultants, or Recruiters, are key stakeholders for senior professionals engaged in a job search or career change.

A Recruiter’s territory can overlap with Executive Search consultants, commonly referred to as ‘Head-hunters’. The big difference between the two, apart from the scope and remuneration of the roles they handle, is that Executive Recruiters often advertise (but not always) the positions they’re working on.

If Recruiters are to be your allies during this process, there are five things you should know about how they work.

  1. Their reputation and success depends on their business development skills, market savvy, strong relationships and networks, and ultimately their ability to find good candidates who match their client’s brief. While the barriers to enter the industry are low, the turnover is high.
  2. They survive on good assignments and commission paid by clients as a result of successful placements. So, while finding the best candidates is important, a Recruiter focuses on the organisations who pay them. They don’t work for you, the candidate.
  3. Good Recruiters are retained by clients to fill a position. While some may have a ‘watching brief’ to refer talented people to their clients, this is less common. This ‘contingency’ approach has the risk of little or no return to a Recruiter, so beware.
  4. While a good Recruiter will network and want to know talented people, they can’t meet everyone who wants to meet them. Unless your profile is relevant to a current assignment, it may be difficult to get their attention.
  5. Research the market and look for the best fit for your target position eg some Recruiters or firms have functional expertise, others focus on corporate or government organisations. Not all Recruiters are born equal. Get recommendations from your network to sift the cowboys from the goodies.

While they are excellent contacts who can offer valuable insights during your job search, Recruiters aren’t motivated to devote energy to your unique career aspirations. Unfortunately, your background may not be useful to them now, or at any time in the near future.

If you happen to speak to a Recruiter at the right time, it’s a bonus. If not, you are networking, practising your interviewing skills and making progress with your career due diligence.

Do you know the best Recruiters in your field? If not, start exploring, before you really need them.

 

What Do Your Strengths Look Like?

Q: What’s the secret to writing a compelling resume and a great interview performance?

A: Knowing what makes us tick, and separates us from the pack.

A resume which showcases the things that make you thrive, and how you’ve delivered value to an employer, along with interview responses that bring your proudest achievements to life, will distinguish you from other candidates every time.

The ability to articulate your Strengths – that unique combination of talents, skills & knowledge – which produce consistent, near-perfect performance –  is the default starting point for savvy career management.

Yet so many of us find this a daunting task!

While simple exercises can tease out skills and interests, many professionals stall when trying to connect with their strengths in action, ie What their strengths look like on the job.

In his book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work, Marcus Cunningham uses the acronym SIGN, to help organise and remember strengths:

S uccess = An activity you do well
I nstinct = An activity you’re drawn to & look forward to doing
G rowth = An activity you want to learn more about
N eeds = An activity that is almost addictive

If your talent, skill or knowledge ticks all the boxes, you’ve identified a Strength. 

The next step is to look for the best examples of when and how you’ve applied them, to craft achievement statements. Then, you’re well on the way to creating a compelling resume, and delivering a winning interview performance.

And perhaps more importantly, finding career fulfilment.

Have a Go!

If you’re struggling to identify your Strengths, and describe where you add value on the job, try keeping a diary for a few weeks. Record instances of when you feel strong …and pay close to the SIGNs – evidence of your Strengths in Action.

For further inspiration, see my earlier post Career Due Diligence.

 

They’re Just Not That Into You

This morning, I was reading Forbes’ Daily Muse post, “No Means No? What to Do When You Don’t Get the Job”. The article offers great tips about how to turn a disappointing situation around, when you don’t get the job. While the suggested Reflection, Follow Up, Ask for Feedback and Keep in Touch are important, the reality is you may never know the real reason why you were overlooked for that job.

When I was a Recruiter, I often felt like a casting director. The only difference was that due to the laws of the land, I couldn’t be as explicit as I would like to be, about why a candidate didn’t make the short-list, or wasn’t offered the job.

While I tried to give applicants useful feedback, which was necessarily vague, it wasn’t always about competencies. Despite the job candidate ticking most, if not all of the boxes, the reason was more of je ne sais quoi, that:

“indescribable or indefinable ‘something’ that distinguishes the object in question from others that are superficially similar”.

The X factor. Chemistry. These days, it’s  also referred to as ‘Cultural Fit’. In Millennial parlance, “They’re just not that into You”.

Last week, I was talking to a recruiter friend, who’s worked successfully at an executive level, both in Australia and internationally, for almost 20 years. He’s always busy, regardless of the economic climate. Following on from my recent post How Recruiters Use LinkedIn, I was picking his brain.

Our conversation drifted to the interview of a candidate I’d recently referred to him. I remarked how I feared that she hadn’t made the short list, because the interview had lasted just 20 minutes. On the contrary. In my recruiter mate’s book, by the time an applicant has got to an interview, he knows they already meet the competencies required to do the job. The interview becomes a test of fit.

So, if you miss out on making that short-list, or aren’t offered the job, take heart. The reason is out of your control. It was probably all about them, not you. The decision was as much about what you offered them, as it was about the existing team, the organisational politics, or plain comfort factor.

You’re just not the piece of the puzzle they need right now.

By all means, follow all the advice offered in the article above. But do not dwell too much on the episode. Shake yourself off, hold your head high, learn from the experience, and apply this to your ongoing job search.

Finally, maintain your professionalism and dignity, keep that door open, and move on.


Why I Like You to Write Your Resume

While there are some excellent professional resume writers out there, I prefer to see you write your own resume.

When you write your own resume, you are owning, interpreting and representing your value proposition, as you target career opportunities.

Resumes are dynamic

In most cases, you will need to customise your resume for a specific position. Even if you’re happy in a job, you can update achievements in your resume anytime. Some industries and professions have resume standards. As you do the due diligence, you will gather more information, and may need to tweak your resume along the way.

Templates are tedious

As recruitment consultants and in-house recruitment teams can scan hundreds of documents a day, they see a lot of cookie-cutter resumes. As long as you follow the golden rules for resume writing, a distinctive resume will help you stand out from the pack.

I skip cover letters

After many years in recruitment roles, I tend to pounce on the resume and overlook the cover letter altogether. This habit can be to your detriment (and mine!), as candidates often mention career gems in the letter, which aren’t in their resume. Your resume should be able to stand alone, and showcase you as a convincing candidate.

You think more

In the age of  ‘personal branding’, you need to articulate your strengths and what you offer a future employer. Self-assessment is a pre-requisite for developing and launching a resume into the market. If you’ve done this, and taken the time to think how your experience lends itself to the opportunity, you’re making a commitment. It shows.

Speak as you write

If you’re crafted the document yourself, you’re more likely to recall details and reflect your writing in your speech. Much like defending a thesis, it’s easier to be interviewed against a resume that you’ve slaved over. If there is any conflict between the two, alarm bells start ringing!

You appear authentic

When you compose your resume, you decide what stays, and what goes. You haven’t been styled by anyone else. The fact that you’ve done the homework says you care enough about what the role and the organisation requires, and how you might add value to a prospective employer.

Allow your personality to shine

A hand-crafted resume gives me a glimmer of your personality. While they are ticking the boxes, good recruiters are also reading between the lines. All things being equal, an indefinable sizzle may spark their interest, and put your resume on top of the pile .

There is one proviso to all of the above – please observe the golden rules as you draft your resume. Although there are plenty of best practice resume writing tips in the public domain, check that they’re relevant to your market.

And before clicking on the send button, seek input and feedback from a range of professionals within your network. Their perception of your strengths and career achievements will be invaluable as you put the final touches on your resume.

Have I convinced you to write your own resume?