Category

Talent

8 tips for an Executive Resume in 2021

By | Coaching, Recruitment, Talent

”Have you got any advice on my CV?” or “What do you think of my resume?” and “How can I improve my CV? are the questions we are asked every day here at Underwood Executive.

The executive resume is a sales tool – it is a preview document with the goal of winning an interview.  The resume is not a document to tell the interviewer everything about you (no DOB, how many kids you have or what you enjoy doing on the weekend).  It’s an appetizer, a taste of what skills and competencies you have to offer as a high performer.

The best resumes are visually appealing, easy to read and have very little narrative and more dot point facts and figures.

Specifically, here are 8 tips to producing an effective executive resume:

  1. Short & sweet– preferably 3 pages (maximum 5) is enough to demonstrate skills, experience, competencies and achievements. Anything longer tends to suggest long narratives, too much waffle or a retyping of a job description. Use a crisp font style and size (please not Times New Roman!), use dot points and short clear sentences. Never use third person or ‘me-centred’ statements with lots of opinion. We want to see white space – not long paragraphs or over indulgent sentences. Always consider readability and not squeezing too much on one page.
  2. Personal details – your name, mobile number, email and LinkedIn URL (make sure you customise this) are best in a header so these details carry across to every page. It is also recommended you use page numbers, so when someone prints your CV it is easy to put in order.
  3. Give yourself a title – the first thing we should be able to see on your resume is what type of executive you are eg: General Manager HR or Chief Financial Officer. Giving yourself a title or several titles makes it easy for the reader to make a connection to the types of positions you are going to be interested in. You can separate titles, just like you can on a LinkedIn profile eg: Group Executive HR | Organisational Development | Change Agent.
  4. Competencies & key words – what are your stand out strengths? Those skills that someone should be hiring you for? What competencies have allowed you to succeed in previous positions? We need to see these skills listed on the front page. Think of these as key words that should be repeated throughout your resume to sell your story and they become the key message to reinforce your strengths.
  5. Career summary– having a table on the front page of your resume that summarises your career history with the company, position title and dates/length of service is a quick reference point for the reader to see your career in an easy snapshot.
  6. Company descriptions– not everyone has worked with well-known brand names like Woolworths or Commonwealth Bank, so we always recommend 2 – 3 sentences saying who the company is, the revenue turnover of the organisation, the industry, number of staff etc. Any information that makes it easy for the reader to make a connection and understand the type, size and complexity of the organisations that you have worked for. Further additions can be hyperlinks to the organisation and the use of logos.
  7. Dates– a resume without specific dates (months and years) is frustrating, as we can’t determine length of service in each role.  Being clear about employment dates and gaps is critical in producing an honest and up to date document. This also includes having dates for when you have completed relevant qualifications. Always check to make sure these dates and descriptions match your LinkedIn profile too.
  8. Career history – always start with your current or most recent position making it very clear your job title and key responsibilities. To give each role size and scale, you can say who you report to eg: CEO and include how many staff report to you eg: 5 Managers, 46 team members, budget responsibility and the role purpose. Including key achievements under each position demonstrates you have performed well, what you have contributed and what success you have achieved. Where possible use as many facts and figures, such as sales results, cost savings, engagement survey results, change management projects etc. Don’t go back any further than 10 years in great detail, as prior experience can be summarised and shows how your career has progressed, but we don’t need the actual key responsibilities for all of these past positions.

Remember that an executive resume is about making yourself and your career stand out through highlighting your most important skills and milestones. You won’t be able to get all of this information in a succinct document, so don’t even try. In this situation, less is more. Too often resumes become versions of war and peace and you lose the reader by confusing them with too much irrelevant data and information that takes away from your core skills, experience and achievements.

If you want your CV noticed, ask yourself what is the most remarkable and significant information as an executive that I want to get across? What skills have I developed to achieve success so far in my career? What makes me more appealing to hire than another executive?  What can I bring to the table that potentially others can’t? What do I want to be known for? It is the answer to these questions that you need to prioritise.

A great executive resume is appealing, concise, informative and relevant with key words and factual information.

Need help? Speak to our consulting team about a career coaching session here.

Rejected because of your email address …….. the harsh reality of selection criteria

By | Recruitment, Retention, Talent

SelectionIt seems everything I read this month features Ruslan Kogan …… At age 31, a ‘rich lister’ worth more than $300 million. He sparked my interest in a recent Financial Review article and now again as I read the Virgin Australia Voyeur magazine on my way over to the RCSA conference in New Zealand. It seems Kogan and I have a few things in common – we both started businesses at age 23, we believe in recruiting for culture, openly giving people feedback and that you need stringent selection criteria to hire the best people.

Kogan was interviewed by the Fin Review on his “hiring secrets” and what criteria he uses to screen “in” or “out” new innovators into his technology business, where he employs 150 staff.  Now, anyone who has built a successful business like his, I like to think must have learnt a thing or two about hiring ‘A’ players and retaining talent to ensure long-term and sustainable results.

It turns out one of Kogan’s biggest selection criteria is dependent on the email address you use. Yes, your email address! If it is Hotmail and not Gmail, you will get a “no thanks” letter based on that alone. Too harsh? His justification is around the technology his company uses and he wants to attract people who are just as passionate and savvy about technology as they are – which means Gmail’s functionality and speed is superior to Hotmail and as a “technology boffin” you would know this. In a market where we are becoming flooded with responses and he is quoted as saying they get over 250 applications per role, is it no wonder that such criteria is being used? Fair? Maybe not. Efficient? Absolutely. Proven to be a precise assessment? Well that’s debatable. He admits it isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s pretty close.

It got me thinking about the other selection criteria used to “screen down” the volume of applications to roles and you may be surprised to know some of the other criteria that is going on behind the scenes including:

  1. Calling before you apply – anyone who calls prior to applying for a job gets a big tick in my book. It shows me that you are keen, see the process as a two-way street and aren’t just applying for any old job out there. You may want more information to ensure we aren’t wasting each other’s time or you may be opportunistic and get your 5 minutes to make a great first impression. Either way – it takes effort to pick up the phone these days and have a phone conversation vs. flicking off an email and resume.
  1. Initiative – sometimes recruiter’s advertisements don’t reveal who the employer is, which I acknowledge makes it harder to write a specific cover letter saying why you want to work for that company.  Again get creative – call, ask some questions, try and obtain any extra information that is going to allow you to tailor your cover letter and stand out from the crowd.  The generic “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir” will likely see your application automatically in the ‘no’ pile.
  1. Social media presence – there are more and more roles that require you to be a ‘thought leader’ in your field, to be the ‘face’ of the organisation, or to be a successful networker and influencer.  When this criteria is high on the agenda, don’t think it is only your application being reviewed. Google searches, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter feeds and Facebook searches are all being utilised to present a three-dimensional view. If your on-line presence isn’t projecting the level of influence and credibility required for the role, you may be screened out before a face-to-face interview opportunity, over other candidates who do.
  1. No cover letter – if a job advertisement asks for a cover letter and all you do is click ‘apply’ and send your resume, this could be the criteria that knocks you out.  It shows that you aren’t following instructions and potentially tells the hiring company that you aren’t that interested in their specific opportunity, more that you are happy to flick your CV for any role you see advertised and hope for the best.
  1. Motivation – if your cover letter does not clearly articulate why you are passionate about this role and this company and it becomes more a sales statement about how great you are in general, it might be the criteria that tips you over to the “no” edge.  Companies want to see a link and a real connection to their opportunity.
  1. Location – if you are ever applying for a role that is different from your home base or local area, please be clear and address this in your cover letter and email.  Why are you attracted to work in this area? How did you hear about the role? What connection do you have to this location? Will you relocate? It is much better to address this up front rather than letting the hiring manager make up their own mind, which might be an incorrect assumption and one that again lands you in the ‘no’ pile.
  1. Voicemail messages – I have been known to count someone out purely based on their voicemail message. I detest those leave a 10 second message and it will be sent as a text….do they actually work? Will you receive my message accurately? Or the voicemails with the funny music over the top, or the ones that just say “yeh you missed me, leave your number”. All of these examples do not create a great first professional impression and will be considered in the selection process.
  1. Phone manner – the way you answer the phone, the way you hold a conversation and the way you answer particular questions are all factors helping us to assess applications.  The other week, I was screening candidates via the phone and I said to this one person “can you talk freely right now?”, he asked me to hang on and after a minute of silence as he walked out of his open plan area, he then returned to the phone and simply said “shoot!”. This wasn’t exactly the most professional response I was expecting.

It’s a friendly reminder that every step in a selection and recruitment process is a test.  A test to determine long-term suitability and cultural fit for the job role and company.  I don’t believe anyone should apologise for having harsh or restricting criteria to find the best people for their organisation. Decisions need to be made and you don’t always get it right. I am sure some will read Kogan’s approach and think it is unrealistic, but you know what? It doesn’t actually matter. What matters is that he gets his formula right, is consistent in his approach and he knows the best people that fit his organisation and the method to find them. I don’t necessarily agree with all his theories, but I will give him the kudos for knowing how to recruit the best people for his business. That in itself is one of the hardest lessons to learn in any successful business.

 

 

Earth to CEO’s….are you missing the link between talent acquisition & HR process?

By | Leadership, Talent

The balance between utilising internal HR and external recruiters to find the right person for a vacancy is a fine line.  There is a time and place for both in my opinion. The key is having the CEO or Leader take an interest and making talent attraction and acquisition a priority rather than a process.

My first week back for 2012 turned out to be an exercise in frustration purely based on the fact that many leaders aren’t taking the topic of talent and recruitment as a serious priority in their business. I returned full of energy and excitement – specifically around some amazing people in my network who have decided to put their feelers out in the new year.  Not active talent scanning job boards and the paper – individuals who are happy for me, as someone in the game to keep an eye out, to represent them and to make a match. They want a recommendation of an employer of choice – to sell them an opportunity so they aren’t just randomly floating in the market hoping to get it right.

Let’s just remember for a moment that there is a skills shortage.  Top talent is hard to find. The BEST person for your vacancy is more than likely to still be sitting in 90% of the passive market completely unaware your position exists.  Greg Savage, Australia’s recruitment king said last week that it is time to “increase innovation and time on talent acquisition”.  I tend to think many businesses still have their head stuck in the sand running their administrative processes, convinced this will give them the right candidate.  I agree that often these processes will place the job, but will it deliver the very best the market has to offer? I doubt it.

So keeping all this in mind, when I was doing my market research last week, I noticed an opportunity with an organisation, who’s CEO I am connected to on LinkedIn. After reading their requirements, I instantly thought of someone in my talent network working in a similar organisation with the skill set required.  This person is highly motivated, a top performer and is only interested in hearing about real opportunities with organisations that value contributions and support ongoing learning.  He is not an active candidate. He does not read the job advertisements in the paper and he certainly doesn’t scan job sites.  Is he open to a new opportunity? Of course, everyone is available for a change.

I approached the CEO with good intent – to offer him the potential of someone who he won’t find through other methods.  I had a return call from the HR person.  The typical spiel goes “we are running our own process, we aren’t engaging any agencies and will not be accepting resumes from recruiters”.  We’ve all heard it.  So you’re not interested in seeing a high performing candidate who is doing a similar role in a competitor organisation? You’re not open to viewing the details of a candidate who could hit the ground running right now and potentially start delivering results for you in the next 3 months? You want to wait 4 – 6 weeks to run a process with a risk of finding no one of this calibre because “it’s policy”.  Pleeeassssee! Spare me.

This is where I think some leaders have it all wrong.  You don’t need to outsource your entire recruitment process.  If you have capable, forward thinking HR people in your team – great, utilise them, but don’t have tunnel vision that restricts opportunities and potentially the best individuals joining your organisation. There is a balance.  A balance between internal HR and using external consultants who specialise in finding the untapped potential in the market can be a winning combination.  This is the difference between just running a process and being innovative and getting ahead of the game, using all resources, networks, tools and connections to ensure your hire the best person every time.  After all, surely that’s the goal to have the very best people working for you in your organisation?

On the other side of the coin, I know a dynamic entrepreneur 3 years into his business and he is kicking some serious goals.  He is winning contracts here and overseas, hiring some of the best people in the market and has already had several offers from the big boys around town to buy-him out.  What is his approach? Not to palm off the process to HR that’s for sure.  He networks, he is open to opportunities, he speaks, he connects people and the results are he is winning the race for top talent.  He has hired 3 executives in the last 2 months that were not on the market, working for larger competitors and guess what? They weren’t reading advertisements in the paper and they certainly didn’t have seek alerts in their inbox.  He has advocates selling his story, he always makes time for a new introduction and he knows that the right people in the right jobs are the key to his business success.

There is a whole un-tapped market of passive candidates who are open to conversations.  They are open to new opportunities IF asked, IF engaged in a conversation and IF a forward-thinking leader is open to the possibility, without the fear of not sticking to process, standard advertisements and standard recruitment methodologies.  You don’t find passive candidates by your HR department running a standard process.

The next time your phone rings, you get a LinkedIn request or an email recommending someone who is interested in your business – count yourself lucky, be open to the opportunity and for goodness sake clear 20 minutes in your diary to at least consider the possibility. As highlighted by Ross Clennett, the PWC global CEO survey supports my concern by stating that two-thirds of CEOs believing they’re facing a limited supply of skilled candidates, but what action are leaders taking? Make it a priority! After all what could be more important than growing and improving your business through recruiting talented high performers?