In any situation, when we engage with others, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it and present it. This shapes how we are perceived and inherently builds our reputation both personally and professionally. In the career search, how you say it and present it verbally or in print makes the difference between success and failure.
As a recruiter and career coach, I interview at least 20 candidates a day. Many are academic leaders and at the Chief Information Officer level in the career college and higher education markets. I have noticed a few unfortunate common patterns with the “saying it and presenting it.” This includes the following:
Leadership Candidates are unaware how to effectively approach a recruiter to network for new opportunities.
They do not effectively articulate to the recruiter their career path, successes (verbally or otherwise), or even put forth their business expertise and value proposition in a compelling manner
I give some folks the benefit of the doubt regarding missing the mark on the resume for a few reasons. Many leadership candidates don’t have or take the time to fully develop their value statements and create a personal brand to strategically market themselves. I find it is common that people aren’t objective or creative when it comes to writing about their own business acumen.
There may be also something to be said about the cultural mind-set of those who are employed in the academic world. They are not measured by the same profit-driven objectives as in the business-to-business world, and don’t seek the same rewards and recognitions. Yes, there are many who have an entrepreneurial mind/spirit and they are among the brightest and most thoughtful people. But they are not “braggers”, so there is reluctance to coming off as “salesy”. This humility may explain why the resume and their interview style are not effectively articulating a powerful value proposition.
The good news is: All is forgiven – not everyone is an expert writer of career documents! What’s not forgiven is not taking the appropriate action steps to remedy a bad résumé. A career search is one of most important activities in our lives. In today’s economy, an investment in résumés and personal branding is something I highly recommend to candidates.
All said, however, the résumé does not replace the “emotional intelligence” needed in a candidate’s career networking effort and interviewing, especially as it relates to seeking help from recruiters. Here are some helpful tips for readers seeking on some insight and practical advice on communicating with recruiters, the role they play with organizations, (not all the negative market perceptions) and recommendations on how to engage with recruiters in career search efforts.
The True Role of the Search Firm
Search firms are in the business of helping an organization reach their talent management objectives: Finding and placing the right people with the right set of business and interpersonal skills into the appropriate positions. This, in turn, will significantly contribute to enhancing the corporate culture. Sounds simple, right? It’s not. It is a huge challenge. (For more detail read “Talent on Demand: The Talent Management Problem” by Peter Cappelli)
Search firms behave as an extension of human resource departments, boards of directors, and executive teams. Recruiters work closely with these entities to understand their total talent management strategy, and then determine the specific skill set and competencies a specific candidate must possess in order to be successful. The goal is to retain this new staff member for a long period of time.
To that end, a recruiter’s objective is finding the top talent within a respective industry i.e. someone with solid industry history, expertise and reputation. Because search firms have built solid relationships within their industries, it enables them to quickly identify candidates that meet the precise business requirements outlined by their clients. The net result: A shortened selection process and reduced cost-per-hire.
Over the past few years, search firms have seen a shift from a candidate market to an employers’ market. Before, recruiters mined for passive candidates. Today, candidates are reaching out to recruiters for assistance with their job search, often responding to job posts for which they aren’t even qualified as a desperation measure. It’s extremely disheartening to the candidate that recruiters are not always the viable option for them in their search effort. However, the problem could be that candidate doesn’t quite understand the role of the recruiter and the services they provide. Hopefully, this role has become more clear!
The “Don’ts” of Engaging a Recruiter:
Let’s add some humor into this article. I’d like to share an example of a common type of email I receive from many candidates, including job seekers in leadership roles:
I have attached my résumé and provided my LinkedIn.com profile. Let me know if you have anything for me.”
Then there are always the phone calls:
“Hi Donna, I sent you my résumé last week. I was just wondering if you have any contacts in my field or job openings that fit my background. I look forward to hearing from you.”
Hmm. This is not exactly a successful networking approach, albeit common. Why are these people losing the attention of me and other recruiters? Simple. They are not selling us on why we should talk to them. They haven’t proven their value, and exactly why we should take time from our additional business obligations to read their profile. Rather, they have emailed me, and are asking me to research them, then align my job openings to their skills. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way!
The “Do’s” of Engaging with a Recruiter:
When it comes to a career search, it’s about likeability! I don’t like being told by someone whom I don’t know or trust yet to go and “do research” about them. Candidates need to get away from this informal email communication style. It may save time in their present work environment. But in this market, candidates need to get back to relationship-based selling! Networking with anyone, especially recruiters, is about talking, building rapport, and getting people to want to work on your behalf. Hopefully, it will become mutually beneficial for both parties.
So how can candidates work more effectively with recruiters? Here are a few “Smart Tips” from my viewpoint as a career coach:
Be prepared like a politician! Have your résumé smart and professionally prepared. Make strong value statements, and ensure that your accomplishments are summarized and memorized. This is not limited to sales and marketing, either. This approach needs to be followed in all industries and for all functions. Know why you are powerful to an organization and be prepared to say it.
Storytelling matters. Don’t assume the recruiter or the hiring authority understands what you do just from your title. Be prepared to succinctly tell specific stories around the accomplishments you listed in your résumé. Storytelling demonstrates your ability to communicate. It engages people, and that’s how they will remember you.
Keep in mind the recruiter’s responsibility is to the client organization. Remember: Finding and placing the right people with the right business and interpersonal skills into the appropriate positions who will significantly contribute to the corporate culture is the recruiter’s mandate. If the recruiter has to pull out of you why you are valuable, you’ve missed the opportunity to demonstrate your worth. You need to prove to the recruiter why YOU are that person they should be present and hire. Don’t practice on the recruiter. Rather practice with a career coach first.
Treat the interview with the recruiter as if you are interviewing with the CEO and/ or the hiring authority. Demonstrate that you understand your market, the industry trends, and the critical business issues you have solved in your role.
Stay formal. It may be natural to want to be familiar or loose with the recruiter, when responding to tough interview and business questions, which is an all-too common occurrence. You also might feel that you want to save your “good” answers for the real hiring authority, but be very careful in this area. Part of the recruiter’s role is to pre-screen candidates and eliminate those that are not articulate and aligned with business requirements. Remember: you need to sell your business skills in every conversation!
Sell and motivate recruiters on your business acumen, your accomplishments, and your business value proposition. Your goal is to get the recruiter excited about presenting you into their network. The recruiter has a reputation to maintain with their clients, as they are being paid top money to find TOP candidates. You need to demonstrate why you are the top candidate and why they should present you when the right opportunity comes along.
Be prepared to discuss positions that you are best suited for you and can make impact with the recruiter. Share with the recruiter the companies that you are attracted to in the market, and why you feel you are the perfect fit to be presented to them.
Full disclosure. If you have sent résumés to other companies in your industry which are competition to your current employer, make sure to disclose this to the recruiter, to avoid possible missteps during the candidate presentation process.
Hopefully, you found value in these strategies. Keep your confidence high and good luck with your career search.