Have you got what it takes to secure an executive role?
Job hunting is stressful. Just spending time looking for appropriate jobs in the paper or on the internet is frustrating and you know that when you find one or two executive appointments that you want to apply for, you will be up against a lot of competition.
Standing out from the crowd is important at every stage of the process. From your initial contact to your CV to your final interview, you want to be the candidate that impresses. Whether this is your first executive position, or you’re a seasoned senior manager, you still need to make your application and interview different enough to secure the job.
If you’re dealing with an executive recruitment agency, there are three key areas where you need to be on top of your game in order to increase your chances of success:
1. On the Phone
Often, your first direct contact with a recruitment firm is on the phone. A telephone interview is a real test of your skills, because you can’t use eye contact of body language to reinforce what you’re saying; you have to rely on being prepared, focused and flexible so that you create a great impression.
2. Your CV
The key here is to focus on your achievements and experience, making everything you put on your CV directly relevant to the position. The internet is awash with information on how to make your CV more presentable, but there are some key points to remember:
- Keep it short
- Keep it relevant
- Put your contact details at the top
- Focus on things you’ve achieved, rather than your skills
3. Your interview
The interview for an executive appointment – either as a preliminary with the recruitment agent or a first or second interview with the company – is your best opportunity to show that you will be an asset to the business. Self-confidence is important, but not to the point where it could be viewed as arrogance. Use positive language and positive body language, give examples to show how you have achieved results in your current position and ask intelligent questions. Make sure you have researched the company well before your interview and double-check the requirements of the job.
The executive level appointments market is a competitive one, and following these steps could increase your chances of success.
Guerrilla Job Seeker Stephen Cobain has 80% success rate with a guerrilla resume in Pittsburgh
As a Guerrilla Job Seeker, I had an 80% success rate with my resume !
It gets better and much more rewarding than that, but let’s start at the beginning.
I had been working in the financial services industry since 1981. Having achieved senior executive level status, the corporation I worked for (a very well-known global financial services organization) let me go after more than 20 years of service. To be fair to all parties concerned when I left my last employer, it was actually more of a mutual parting of the ways. None-the-less there I was, unemployed for the first time in my life and in my 50’s and not sure what I was going to do. Because we have been living in the worst employment market period since the great depression of the 1930’s, I knew competition for any job at my level would be stiff and I wondered, “Who will hire someone at my age? Will I have to sell my home and move away from family and friends?”
My former employer did offer to send me through a pricey nationally known outplacement service as part of my severance package. So at least at the outset, it offered me some level optimism. I attended the seminars, met with my job counselor and so-forth since it was on my (now) former company’s dime. It was my belief that the price was right and what could it hurt?
I will say that the people at the outplacement company certainly were nice enough, but I can’t say they really taught me anything new. Essentially what I walked away with was a new resume (that I had to correct) and (I) was given a list of all the local Pittsburgh area executive recruiters to contact should I opt to so. That pretty much sums up my experience with that high visibility outplacement organization my former employer uses. That money could have been laid to better use; like putting it in my pocket to provide a financial buffer while I conducted a job search in these challenging times.
Fast forward a full year and then some. By this time I had sent out literally hundreds of resumes. The net result ? I was no further ahead in my job search than I was a year earlier. Much to my disappointment, companies simply were not acknowledging receipt of my resume; I wasn’t getting interviews so it was obvious to me that a job offer certainly was not in the cards any time soon.
Thanksgiving weekend was now on the horizon and my wife and I agreed that if I were not employed by that time, we would sit down and have a family discussion. The holiday weekend comes and I’m still unemployed. As agreed we had our family gathering to discuss my career situation and what I need to do next. During that meeting my wife said, “Steve you are very good at what you do, but you are not very good at marketing yourself in this economy. You need to find some professional help.”
Not long after the Thanksgiving Holiday, I found myself reading career search related blog articles written by Mark Haluska, a Certified Guerrilla Job Search Coach. I’d never heard of him prior, but the job search advice in his articles surely resonated with me. I checked Mark’s credentials as an Executive Recruiter and as a Guerrilla Coach, as well as his close business alliance with David Perry. Satisfied with my findings, I concluded that Mark would almost certainly be a worthy job search mentor.
At that time I was also in the preliminary talking stages with another career coach as a possible person to help me get back to work, but Haluska’s career search articles really piqued my curiosity. It was then that I took what would be my first Guerrilla step and called Mark regarding the 10 week Guerrilla Job Search program.
In my first phone discussion with Mark he said that should he agree to bring me on as a client I would have to first commit to diligently work the Guerrilla Job Search course on a full time basis. That’s 40 hours a week. Upon reflection, the course was not only fast and furious but it was also out and out grueling at times. Not once did I ever have to wonder what I would need to do next to find a new job because between having a direct line to my coach whenever I needed him, the regularly scheduled phone conference calls, the Guerrilla software and my weekly lesson plans; it was all laid out for me.
Secondly, Mark told me that because of my rather conservative career background in financial services, and my senior level (to) be prepared to do things that will make me feel somewhat “uncomfortable” at times. Lastly, he advised me to feel free to ask any questions I wanted about the tips and tricks I’ll be learning as we go, but ultimately I’ll be required to execute those tactics in order to remain in the program.
By this time it was becoming abundantly clear to me that this guy was going to be more like a drill sergeant than what I would have envisioned an executive coach to be like; so much for preconceived notions. That said, everything else I had tried to do for more than a year to find a new position was not working for me. I needed to get back to work ! As a result, I agreed to Mark’s terms and with that, I started the course with Mr. Haluska as my Guerrilla coach about a week later.
While I was enrolled in the Guerrilla Job Seekers course I was challenged nearly every day to do things one would not normally do as a job seeker. At the same time though, I knew I was doing things that my competition (for a new job) was not doing. What is more, in order to remain in good standing in this program I simply had to execute my assignments. On occasion I would call Mark to express some concern about what he was asking me to do. I knew he did not want to hear it but I called him out anyway just to let him know my feelings. As tough as Mark was as my job search mentor he would somewhat soften up and in a confident and convincing way say; “Steve, because the herd (of job seekers) is heading north… I’m sending you south. It’s all good.”
Speaking of being required to do things out of the ordinary, I recall while enrolled in the course, sharing with my family the unusual tactics that I was being coached through to find a job. At one point, my daughter, a very highly educated and accomplished person in the medical profession said to me, “Dad that stuff is just too bizarre, those things won’t work!” I can laugh at about that now but at the time, it did cross my mind that she may be right !
Fast forward to the 4th week of the course; it was then I received my first unofficial job offer. By that time I had sent out only 10 (well targeted) resumes and by the course standards I was actually falling behind. It was then though that (I) surprisingly started to get action as I spent the next week (plus) literally getting worn out as a result of all of the resume activity I was getting with in-person interviews and phone screenings. Out of the 10 resumes I sent, I received 8 responses from actual hiring authorities !
By the 5th week of Guerrilla coaching, I was offered a couple of more positions. At the beginning of the 6th week with competing job offers in hand, I finally accepted a lucrative offer from an employer that not only met all of my expectations but exceeded them as it turned out to be a great fit for me. I’m now a Senior Vice President with and great organization. I believe that without the Guerrilla Job Search program and having my coach as a mentor, especially after being unemployed for so long, it may not have ever happened.
I’d like to express my thanks to coach Mark Haluska and the entire Guerrilla Team. Not only did I get a job faster that I could have ever realistically expected, but this experience has made me an even better senior level executive.
Stephen Cobain, Pittsburgh, PA
YouTube Job Search: there were two different ways I was able to achieve interviews that ended up with a job. As they used different tactics, I wanted to share both with you. You can see more details here: Youtube video used for job hunting
I was able to secure multiple rounds of interviews with a company by following many of the tactics outlined in the Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters book. To start with, I prepared a Coffee Cup Caper, which included a copy of my Guerrilla Resume, a Guerrilla Cover Letter and a StarBuck’s coffee cup. I sent this via FedEx and called the CEO shortly after he received it. While they did not have a specific requirement, he was intrigued and set up an interview for when he returned from his holidays.
To prepare for the interview, I look up the company on LinkedIn and found a former employee. I called him and asked questions about the company and how it was changing. He provided great information, and at the end suggested that I contact a friend of his that still works there. I talked to this person as well, who happened to work in marketing – the same department I was interested in, and was given great insight into the pain points of the company.
Using these insights, I created a number of presentations on what the issues were and how they could be solved – with my help. This included looking at ways to expand their market awareness, growing the number of leads they were bringing in, and a competitive analysis on other players in the space and what they can do to be successful. I loaded the presentations on my iPad and presented to the CEO during our meeting.
As one of the pain points was market awareness, after the interview I wrote a two page article about the industry they were in and what challenges designers are facing. I included this in a thank you note that I mailed to the CEO.
Two weeks went by without a response to my thank you note or follow up phone calls and e-mails. I had been told that they were planning on launching a new product soon so I wrote a draft press release announcing the launch. While the press release was short on some technical details because I was not privy to corporate information, it showed them initiative and creativity. I e-mailed this to the CEO and was contacted shortly after to come in for another meeting.
Unfortunately the company was VC funded and were limited in budget. While there was a definite need for my skills the current focus was on expanding the sales team. However, this did not mean that the process was over.
I continued to converse with the CEO and we set up a time to meet again. I was persistent in communicating with the CEO to let him know that I was still interested, and each time I tried to provide an additional reason why he needed to bring me on board. He told me that he was very interested and need to work out some details on his end, but before he got to the point of giving me a job offer I ended up getting an offer from another company.
The second company that I engaged had a job opening posted on their website. I found the position through Indeed.com and looked up the company on LinkedIn. I had a connection that worked there and contacted him to pass my Guerrilla Resume to the hiring manager, and talked to him about the company so that I had an understanding of their issues. The company called later that day to schedule a phone interview.
A phone interview can be both good and bad. You can not see the person’s reactions to what you are saying so you can never be sure if they are interested in what you are saying. But at the same time you often bypass memorization questions, like what are the names of the management team because you can look them up on your computer. The other nice thing is that you can have a list of questions queued up to ask and do not have to rely on remembering them.
The second round interview was a panel interview where they asked me to present a market entry strategy for them. They were not looking for technical detail, and were instead trying to understand my thought process of solving a problem.
Instead of just presenting on what they asked, I took it a step further and exceeded their expectations. I wrote a sample press release and article that could be used for entering the market, printed everything on high quality paper, and created a package for each interviewer to give it a professional look.
One of the comments I received was that I was enthusiastic about the exercise. They were not looking for a robot, they were looking for someone who would really care about what they were doing for the company. And if you can show that level of enthusiasm during an interview that is a good sign that it will transfer over to the actual job.
They had also read my blog and were intrigued by my commitment to try to help others out with their job search and the outside the box tactics that I was employing. While I did not use many of these tactics on them, they realized the potential for creativity that they believe I will apply to future projects.
After the panel interview I was asked to wait in the lunch room while they discussed. That is another great thing about panel interviews, all of the decision makers are in one place at the same time and can make a decision. When I came back to the room they told me that, subject to a reference check, they would be making me an offer.
As a last piece of advice I would suggest that you try the tactics found in this book. While they might sound weird and “outside the box” they are proven to work. And you have nothing to lose by trying something different. Companies are looking for people that are innovative. You are not going to put yourself in a worse position than you are now by trying something new, and you will be surprised by the results!
I got an intriguing question email today from the career service office of a university where I’m speaking next month.
Below is the question and my answer. This should interest you if you’re a recent college grad looking for your first job. It may also give you clarity if you find yourself in your 30s and 40s and not sure what you want to do with your life …
QUESTION: My big concern is for the college student job seeker who has skills, is eager to work, but doesn’t have a clear idea of what they really want to do. These are the students who, in a better economy, would be employed, but in this one won’t until they discover what they really care about. How do you help this kind of student without dampening their spirits? How willing are professionals to help this person gain clarity? Or do college grads need to do soul-searching on their own?
ANSWER: The student needs to do the hard thinking and soul searching before ever venturing into the job market. Students need to pick the 3 skills the most want to use (good) or the title of the job they most want (better) before ever speaking to a potential employer or high-value networking contact.
Reason? Once you are branded as unclear, unfocused, and not particularly valuable, it’s nearly impossible to change that impression later.
When the average employer interviews the average college grad for a job, they usually expect to talk to an unfocused 22-year-old who hasn’t done a lot of research on the company/clients/industry in question, and doesn’t know what they want to do with their lives.
Imagine, then, how a more-motivated college grad would impress employers by saying something like, “I’ve researched your firm, Ms. McGillicuddy, and I really admire how quickly you went from $1M to $10M in revenue in 18 months (that’s what the article in Crain’s Detroit Business said). I’ve also researched your 3 biggest competitors by posing as a customer and going through their buying process. Would you like to see the report I came up with? I can also show you a PowerPoint slide that one of their sales reps used last month — I found it on Google using the Advanced Search function and some sleuthing. Could we meet for coffee this Thursday morning?”
Even if Ms. McGillicuddy isn’t hiring, she’s going to meet with this motivated college grad, which will either lead to a job or a highly valuable referral – which is one step away from a job for this college grad.
So, to sum up, professionals expect to help young persons gain clarity, but won’t necessarily want to. By contrast, they do not expect to speak to a young person who has clarity, but will be eager to meet, hire, or refer them.
The only failure in my view is in not picking a direction. I know several people in their 40s who still have no idea what they want to do. They hate their current jobs but have no dream jobs to look forward to. They have lacked direction since leaving school and have been too afraid to pick a defined route because it would have forced them to say “No” to every other route.
If you take a sub-optimal job on the way to a clearly defined dream job, you have not failed and you have not settled. Because you are progressively realizing your goal every day you go to work and making yourself ready for that ideal job. You are a success.
Having said that, there’s no shame in picking a skill set or job title you end up hating in 3 months … or 3 years. What you learn in school is called education. What you learn after that is called experience. As long as you find the lessons and people to recommend you in every job, you can’t help but become more valuable and “referable” to others.
By Kevin Donlin
Here’s a link to a fantastic article from Fortune Magazine on how to get a job in a recession.
It’s just a coincidence that my business partner, David Perry, and I are both quoted in it
You should read the whole piece, but here are excerpts and comments …
Rather than blast out resumes, [Rob] Sparno drew up a list of about 15 former colleagues who were now in leadership positions – his prospect list, in sales parlance. Then he sat down to write them e-mails. One note was to someone he hadn’t talked to in years, an old colleague from Netscape who now worked at Salesforce.com. In his e-mail Sparno wrote that he was looking for the “next new thing.” Minutes later he got a text message from his contact’s BlackBerry with two words: “Call me.”
This is what David and I call making a “job shopping list.” Sparno had 15 names on his list. We suggest 15-20.
By the time he went for the final interview – his seventh – he had his pitch down perfectly. Halfway through the meeting, Sparno and the manager started discussing how to target a client Sparno had worked with before. The manager went up to the whiteboard to throw out some ideas, and Sparno leaped up to join him, until the two were standing shoulder to shoulder, markers in hand, batting strategies back and forth.
I’ve been teaching this idea for years. It’s called, “start working before you’re hired.” And it helped get Sparno hired.
Here’s another example from the article of how one successful candidate did it:
“I have no reason to hire you,” said the hiring manager at SAS, the software company, when Pat Bennett walked in for an interview. Bennett, 52, had no background selling technology software. But she pitched herself as a perfect fit in a unit targeting financial services clients. Her last job had been at LexisNexis, handling high-strung attorneys every day. Surely she could deal with hedge fund managers too. In her second-round interview, Bennett gave a presentation showing how she’d approach the business in her first 30 days. She got the job.
Question: Can you create a PowerPoint for your next interview, showing what you’d do in your first 30, 60, and 90 days on the job? There are two correct answers: yes, and yes.
Here’s a final, excellent example of someone who proved their skills by “starting work” before they were hired:
The CEO of tech startup AdaptiveBlue said the company just hired an engineer who found three problems in the software he’d be testing before he even came in for an interview.
And you gotta love this truly “guerrilla” job search tip from David, which illustrates why The Wall Street Journal called him the “rogue recruiter” in a feature story on him last year:
One surefire way to grab people’s attention is to offer intel on their competitors. David Perry, the headhunter, advises gathering such tidbits whenever you go on an interview. When the hiring manager asks whether you have any questions, Perry recommends saying, “Yes, as a matter of fact I do. I understand your five competitors are such and such. What is it about ABC Company that makes you guys nervous?” Take notes, and when you get to your car, pick up the phone and call those competitors: ‘I just left an interview at XYZ Corp. Apparently you’re doing this and this, and it’s keeping them up at night. Do you have time for coffee?’”
New resource: Job Search Video on DVD from David and Kevin.