Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Executives Must be "ON Interview Ready" 24-7
There is a humorous book out by California publisher Blue Point Books
called Harry Says...... Boss Talk Without the Warm Fuzzies. http://www.harrysays.com/
Editor Bruce Feldman provides wisdom shared by one of his friends, Harry, who built companies and was a successful if not tactful entrepreneur.
I recommend it and it you would like a free copy you may post a comment
with your email address and I can send copies to the first ten people who ask for it.
In the meantime I have tips for you Executives who are looking for work
or to those of you who are employed but may need to make a change in the next few years.
You are always "on display" and must remember that like an Actor who plays a role, it is important to demonstrate your professionalism in all you do.... On and Off the "Stage".
Search firms and boards of directors use a variety of methods to evaluate whether a candidate is suitable for positions they want to fill and use many screens and tests to further consideration. Experienced recruiters are looking for a skill set and a cultural fit for their clients. Their job is to screen OUT all the folks who think they need this job and who will not add to the interview process for the client.
YOUR job is to keep yourself in the process, IN THE GAME and go for the OFFER, until such time you determine the opportunity is not for you.
So - when you work with search firms or employment agencies, Please remember, they work for the CLIENT-Employers. (Not the job candidates in spite of how cordial they may seem).
Skilled recruiters are always listening for and detecting Capabilities and Accomplishments as well as liabilities of potential placements. Most recruiters have excellent listening skills and usually look for the same in job candidates. Sometimes the screening starts in the AD or job posting, but often times it starts before that in the Hidden Job Market. Your professional network is the first place for many opportunities to germinate ..... and it often determines whether the the job gets publicized or if an Ad is even posted at all.
Did you know that more than 50% of all executive jobs never get announced to the public?
Never underestimate the power of your personal and professional network.... that is where most of the leads come from and where most job offers originate. You, by your conduct and reputation, have been demonstrating who you are and what you can accomplish for many years now and what you say is often secondary to who you have been. Of course what you say in interviews is important, but the point I want to make is that you are ON DISPLAY long before your interview starts.
How does a search firm work?
Once an executive recruitment firm has an assignment to seek an executive they go to their own files first and to the contacts of their client and the industries professional association leaders. Often this outreach is informal and take place with a simple phone call. About half the jobs get advertised or posted....... and often after "insiders" have had a preview of the need of the client.
Candidates then are screened for initial job requirements and the persons responsiveness. Are they interested? Are they going to be responsive to the interviewer to the search committee? Many candidates cannot pass this basic "test" of simply following directions.
Successful candidates... those who get the actual offers usually follow all the instructions and often make up some of their own as well. It is OK to do more than expected, to prepare more and unless instructed otherwise, to reach out to the recruiter or the board members for support. Cautiously....but proactively, job candidates who demonstrate not only a fit for the position requirements but a real desire to win this job are often the first choice.
Over the years when I have recruited and placed Chief Executive and other senior officers for corporations and Non profits, we have asked for presentations which show relevant accomplishments and we ask the candidates to show us how they line up with the new job requirements. Professional interviewers (recruiters and HR pros) are also skilled at asking specific questions during the interviews, looking for specific responses as opposed to generalities. For example one might be asked to share specifics of a recent strategic plan, give the list of board members or show non-proprietary reports that the exec worked on.
Are there more "tests" for candidates? Is their popularity among hiring managers increasing?
In 2009 we have found many more legitimate candidates having lack of stable work history.
It seems we are indeed living in a “Gig Nation” and not all qualified professionals have just one professional employer. It becomes increasingly important to have ways to screen out the large numbers of applicants, to be able to have a quality procedure to cull through those who look good on paper. Professional recruiters and search firms almost always use a structured interview process to vet the best…..no matter what their employment history looks like. And, in today’s world – many executives work patterns look at bit spotty. This was considered a flake in the “olden days” twenty years ago and when I started my employment services firm in 1979, but more commonly today good people may have had a career that looks more like an ACTORS….. leading roles, and supporting roles, but successful people do have things in common and that usually includes happy fans who want to come back for more.
What do executives need to know to be prepared for interviews?
It is important to have references and credentials lined up before hand. Not necessary to
submit initially but please do understand that through your informal networks and professional organizations your background is being looked at when you are unaware that it is being scrutinized.
I recently told one CEO to think of herself as being on display 24/7. There is almost nothing you can say off the record that might not come back to be connected with you.
These “tests” go on all the time…. In the informal referral networks, in the friends of friends deciding who to refer and not to refer. References are checked in non linear ways so it is not only who you give as a reference but where else you have worked, how visible you have been and with whom you associate that impacts your reputation and your “halo” or lack thereof. I recall one time we were recruiting a CEO for a Chamber of Commerce. This candidate was extremely smart, capable and appeared qualified….however his style was to refer to his (bosses) board of directors as "Lay Leaders". This may have worked in his religious professional background but was the wrong cultural message to try to send to a Chamber of Commerce…. Which is filled with servant leaders who mostly see themselves as business leaders and professional community builders – not "Lay persons". This language alone, which in my opinion demonstrated that he was unaware of the culture of the industry he was interviewing for, caused the candidate to be dropped out of the process early on.
If you are approaching the job market again after a number of years, please consider getting an executive coach to help you through the process. Not only can they give you valuable feedback about your network, your resume and your "story" they can also serve as an added set of strategic eyes and ears while you find your next fulfilling role....not just a paycheck.