At La Fosse, we appreciate how difficult the employment process can be. So, in today's rapidly evolving market, how should you identify your unique skill set, stand out from the rest of the short-list and – crucially - get hired?
La Fosse Associates was delighted to host ‘Mind-Flip,' an Executive Candidate Care event which brought together C-suite executives with one of the UK's leading career experts, Zena Everett, alongside the Heads of the La Fosse Search and Interim Practices and senior consultancy team.
The event was designed to provide guidance on the complexities of job-seeking as a c-suite executive. The atmosphere was highly interactive, with participants encouraged to ask questions and introduce topics of discussion. In addition to Zena's highly engaging and insightful presentation, several valuable insights were also provided by the Heads of the Search Practice; Henry Draper and Chris Chandler.
The focal point of the guidance was Zena's philosophy of 'Mind-Flipping.' She explained that in order to succeed in the job-market, you have to flip your focus away from yourself and instead look outwards – on to the value you add and the problems you, uniquely, can solve for other people.
Here are some of the other key takeaways:
Stop looking for jobs, and look for problems.
Hiring teams don't want a 'dynamic team player' – they want someone who will solve a problem for them. However, organisations don't want to express weakness by advertising that they have problems. Build a picture of an organisation by researching all the available information and, if you can, speak to an ex-employee, and work out what unique skill you have which will cut costs, improve efficiency or otherwise provide value. Be ready to provide case studies to illustrate your capabilities, the value you will add and your relevance. People think in terms of pictures rather than words; if you can provide a proof in the form of a narrative, it will stick in people's minds.
Don't get derailed by vagueness; base your CV on proof and metrics.
Make sure you are direct in asking for the job you want so as not to run the risk of your CV being filed in the wrong place on the database, and maintain a consistent brand across your CV and Linkedin profile. Use hard evidence not hyperbole; prove that you are capable of solving the problem with statistics, comparisons, achievement against target, testimonials, customer feedback and reference quotes. Bear in mind that when recruiters examine a CV, they rarely focus on the personal statement section – they look at the last role you occupied.
Make sure your last role appears relevant to the one you are applying for.
This is particularly important if you are looking to change sector. Find something about your last role which is relevant to the new one – whether this is the matrix of management in which you were operating, a skill you utilized, or a client or customer base you came into contact with. Chris Chandler observed that, when recruiting for tech roles, he values candidates who have displayed a problem-solving capability, though this may be in a different sector from the role being placed. If moving from a SME, where your role may have encompassed many titles, to a larger organisation, ensure that you emphasise the relevant responsibilities. If making the opposite move, express that you have the skillset to be more 'entrepreneurial' in your new role.
Have your career trajectory clearly explained.
Explain why you want the job and why you're interested in it. Dropping down a level or accepting a lower salary without explanation has the potential to make employers nervous, as you might leave the role as soon as you're offered something higher. Articulate your interest in the role and provide a clear explanation and employers will understand - few people in the Financial Services will move sector without accepting a lower income, for example. You can turn a change of roles on your CV into a source of strength if it is clearly accounted for - Chris Chandler observed that, when candidates have made a significant internal move, it indicates an adaptive skillset.
Be the someone that someone knows.
The executive job-market is largely underground. Chris Chandler observed that up to 50% of the executive roles he places are not on job boards. Nurture your network; identify old mentors or individuals who have a vested interest in your job-search. Look at the Linkedin accounts of your friends, and ask for introductions to their relevant connections. People generally describe others in a single sentence; articulate a clear message about yourself which can be passed through people. Recruiters respect connections, and someone who is known to an existing employee is more likely to be hired even if they don't have the perfect skillset, as they are perceived to be of lower risk for culture fit.
Invest time in meeting recruiters face to face.
Give them a reason to put you forward: they have access to the underground job-market. A social meeting registers you as an easy culture fit, the importance of which shouldn't be underestimated. Always avoid speaking negatively about previous roles, and invest time in speaking to researchers as well as senior consultants; they will have access to the whole spectrum of roles and will be eager to build their own network.
After founding then managing a successful recruitment firm, Zena changed the direction of her own career, selling the business and retraining as an Organisational Psychologist and Executive Coach. She has helped thousands of people to raise the bar on their career goals and get the jobs or promotion they want, working with clients as varied as Oxford University’s Said Business School, Equity and Mumsnet.