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Employment Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

5 ways to accelerate your career with your personal brand

By | Career, Coaching, Personal Brand

On Thursday the 24th of May, I was invited to speak at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide for the wine industry’s “women in drinks” event on how to build your personal brand and career. With over 100 women in attendance, in an industry where women represent only 22% in senior leadership roles and then less than 2% at the CEO and Board level, they were extremely keen to know what they can do and should be doing to help them stand out from the crowd.

Having a strong personal brand is a valuable career development strategy – it’s about managing your name, image and people’s experience with you. What do they think and say about you? I shared the 5 C’s of how to build a personal brand, which can contribute and open up further career opportunities:

1. Connections and building relationships – one of the most important factors in building my own personal brand, network and business has been based on building networks and connections. I encouraged the women in the room to think about who their target audience is and then the best ways, platforms and avenues to get front and centre with them. The ability to network inside and outside your organisation is critical to stay relevant and to ensure you don’t become insular, which could become career limiting down the track. Relationships don’t have to have an immediate pay off – it’s best to think more broadly about what access to knowledge you can gain, what you might learn or what influence your relationships might give you. Be curious and open – it’s a strategy I invest in every day.

2. Challenges – think about what challenges you will face in building your personal brand. In Australia, there are 6,900 recruitment firms, as an industry we generate $11.2bill in revenue, we employ 92,000 people and fill approx. 15% of all job vacancies in Australia. The gender ratio is 53% female, however when it comes to recruitment owners, only 28% are female. This is a very saturated market, with very few female business owners in a very male orientated owner market. I saw this as opportunity – away from the traditional (and somewhat outdated) service offering and the same old faces. This presented an exciting challenge to determine how to stand out in the market. Always remember where there is a challenge, there is always a greater opportunity.

3. Core message – once you see an opportunity, determining what do you stand for is the next strategy. When people think of you what comes to mind? You can ask people around you. For me, I used the technique of thinking of 3 words and asking myself, what am I qualified to teach others? Recruitment Retention and Results. I wanted to stand out from the crowd by being a thought leader in this space. My core message has always been recruit the best people, retain them and the results and success will follow. My messaging always has this undertone and link back. This core message becomes what you are known for.

4. Communicate – a great branding strategy is to ensure that you have a clear and consistent tone and story and to decide what is the best way to get your message out there. For me, to share my ideas and content publicly, I started a blog back in 2011. I’ve noticed that many people find it hard to talk about accomplishments (even at interview) or to promote themselves directly. I also see in general, that women struggle more so with this than men, as they don’t want to come across as pushy or aggressive. The best way to get around this is to share all learnings – yes this includes wins, but including stuff ups too is a great strategy to resonate with people and demonstrate an authenticity, which isn’t about self-promotion, it’s about sharing. For me, the blog allows me to share my knowledge and real experiences around leadership, culture and how to hire the highest performing talent in the market. This has been one of the best personal branding strategies in my career – it created the platform for my business Underwood Executive and has led me to new clients, new talent, different relationships and ultimately a successful business.

5. Commitment – building a personal brand takes discipline. It’s a long term commitment to yourself and your career. Some people come out all guns blazing with great gusto messaging through social media or blogging just because they think they should be. It looks like a scattergun approach with no real thought given to the strategy or content. This can be more harmful, as your target audience might make an incorrect assumption about your motive or be confused by your agenda. Do things regularly, post your own content, share others content that is consistent with your thinking, argue articles that don’t align with your thinking and build your profile consistently. That’s what will make you memorable. Once you get known for what you stand for, the right opportunities will come to you.

A personal brand is the single most important and powerful thing you can do for your career. Personal branding isn’t an ego play, it’s an increasingly effective way to differentiate yourself, connect with your audience on a human level and grow a valuable network. It takes time, persistence, energy, dedication and focus. Taking this time to invest in building your personal brand will help set you up for future success.

How to have leadership impact in under a minute

By | Leadership, Retention

I am in the process of coaching an emerging leader in a large service based organisation and this week he had a break through.  Leading a team of people, he has been met with the typical frustrations and challenges of motivating staff, keeping them engaged and reducing their stress levels with workloads at their peak.

One staff member in particular has been noticeably stressed and difficult to manage in terms of keeping her engaged and focused on the big picture – stuck in the detail and showing signs of stress through facial expressions, shortness in communication and working longer hours. Through our coaching we have been discussing the different ways he can tackle this and the one technique that has delivered the biggest result was the easiest to execute. Instead of focusing on everything that was wrong, could be improved or fixed, he put on his “positive glasses” and focused on those things that she was doing well and he wanted her to continue doing.

Giving people praise is the easiest way to let people know they are appreciated.

In my experience, leaders can be very good at saying thank you for a job well done. However, this is not enough to ensure that people stay engaged and continue to produce the same high-level results. For feedback to be effective and to ensure the same effective behaviour continues, it requires a little more than a simple thank you and well done.

In this case, the leader decided to ensure it was on his daily to do list to be giving specific praise and recognition. For example, he observed an overflowing inbox that was cleared and congratulated his team member for being organised and getting on top of this backlog. He explained how it made a difference to the management team to get their deadlines met and they didn’t have to chase the status of the projects. He then asked how she achieved this and reinforced her system in place and thanked her again for a great result.

His technique was this:

  1. Observe a job well done (something effective)
  2. Praise the team member specifically (what did they do)
  3. Explain the impact to the business (how it helps the business)
  4. Reinforce / thank you (keep doing it)

This technique could be executive in less than 1 minute and the impact to the team member, to him and the overall business has been significant. In 3 weeks, he has gone from feeling frustrated to feeling inspiring. The team member has gone from feeling stressed to feeling empowered. The power of this technique is in the specific delivery of what the team member has done and how it impacts and helps the greater business goals and others in the team. If people understand what they do and why they do it, it will help them think for themselves and continue doing these things because they understand the ‘why’.

Want to be a more inspiring leader? Look for a job well done and take 1 minute a day to tell your team how what they do makes a difference. It’s easy, effective and will have everyone more engaged, empowered and energised.

 

Caution! Why you shouldn’t hand over your referees before interview

By | Recruitment

Reference Checking A natural step in the recruitment process is for employers to verify your employment history and job performance in previous roles before making you a formal offer of employment. Nothing new here.

However, there are things that you should strongly consider before casually handing over your referee details.

Talking to an executive this week about his current job search, I learnt about his staggering experience with sharing his referees with a local Recruiter before meeting with the client/employer. Typically at an executive level, reference checks are not completed until much later in the process, when the candidate and client have met and decided they are both keen to progress the recruitment process. In this instance the candidate completed full psychometric testing and reference checking prior to any formal interview or meeting.

Presumably because the candidate had his referees listed on his resume, the Recruiter proceeded to speak to them without seeking permission first.

The first the candidate knew about it was when one of the referees called and told him that not only had he been drilled about his job performance and working relationship, but then the Recruiter had proceeded to canvas the referee for the job in question. So much so, the referee was then invited in for interview for the same job! The candidate was clearly gob smacked. He had potentially just done himself out of a job by providing competition for the opportunity, albeit unintentionally. He was absolutely floored that this could happen and questioned the integrity of the Recruiter.

Some of you may argue – so what? What is wrong with that? The referee might be a better match for the job in question and the Recruiter needs to act in the best interest of their client. I would argue that there is due process, common decency and respectful communication in question here.

With this example in mind, I recommend that all executive candidates do not include a referee list on their resume, unless of course it is explicitly requested as part of the process and you have informed your referees of the role you are being considered for. If you progress past first round interview and there is genuine interest where both you and the employer feel there is a match, then, and only then, should you discuss your referees.

Referees are busy and a thorough reference check will take at least 20 – 30 minutes to get a detailed understanding of not only roles and responsibilities, but KPI’s, outcomes, job performance, areas of strength, development areas, leadership style and communication skills. A hectic executive is not going to appreciate being called every few weeks by another potential employer or recruiter to have the same conversation. The risk also is that it potentially reflects badly on you, as your referee might be feeling ‘over it’ and thinking ‘not another reference’ and if these feelings are coming out in their tone, it could overshadow their true assessment and reflection of your job performance in the past. It is better that your referee is only interrupted and called for a role that you are very close to securing and will accept if offered. Don’t waste their time or yours for roles you aren’t 100% serious about or when you are in the early stages of a process and unsure of how close you are to winning the job.

Other quick tips:

1. Always ring your referee before they are contacted and ensure they are still happy to act as a referee for you. Quickly explain your current situation and the type of role you are going for – this will help give them some context before receiving a call and it also helps frame their reference to match the type of role you are going for.

2. Tell the referee who will be calling. You could always text the person’s phone number for them to save in their phone, so that when the number comes up, they know who it is. It’s all about taking responsibility and making it as easy as possible for all parties involved.

3. Find out the best number to reach them on and when is the best time to call and communicate this back to the person who will be ringing.

4. Make reference checking easy for your recruiter – text or email the exact referee details including current employer, exact title, best numbers to call on, email and even a link to their LinkedIn profile. The more prepared everyone is for these conversations, the more meaningful the exchange and information obtained – all of which helps your case and increases your chances of being offered the role.

There are certainly many examples out there relating to where reference checking can go wrong for different parties involved. Even last week, after I conducted a glowing reference check for my candidate, she rang to say “Hey, I heard you spoke to Chris (the referee), he didn’t realise I was on the job market and offered me a job with his new employer”. Now, lucky for me, she didn’t take it and won the role with my client – but it is a clear reminder that as a candidate on the job market, you need to take responsibility and be on the front foot when it comes to providing referees and having conversations upfront, where you set expectations and create the most favorable set of circumstances for all involved.

The reason why you may not be getting a job interview

By | Career, Recruitment

Photo LinkedInWould you go to a cocktail party in your cycling gear? Would you go to a business networking event in your wedding dress? Would you attend a job interview with a glass of wine in your hand? I don’t think so. It begs the question then, why do we see these types of photos being used people’s profile shots on LinkedIn?

In the business of ‘search and recruitment’, we spend a lot of time on LinkedIn – looking for talent and generally getting to know who you are and your experience within industry. This is especially helpful if we are meeting for the first time and want to see what you look like so we don’t approach the wrong person at a café or it may be that we are reviewing resumes and want to see a professional image consistent with your formal application. More and more we find that people are using photos that aren’t helpful, up to date or even remotely professional. Here are some of the biggest blunders we have observed: 

 

  1. No photo – if there is no photo, the assumption can be what’s wrong? What are you trying to hide? The whole point of LinkedIn is to network and increase your professional connections – so you need to be willing to share and help people recall who you are. Putting a face to a name is important.
  1. Using company logos for your profile shot – this is not you or who you are. That is what a company page is for.
  1. Cartoon picture – okay so you might have a good sense of humour, but we like to know who we are dealing with. I’m yet to meet Road Runner in the flesh!
  1. Group shots – hmmm are you the blond or the brunette? Considering this is an individual profile, it should be an individual picture.
  1. Social shot – this is not a dating site. Great that you enjoy cycling, fishing, walks on the beach, sunsets etc, just don’t use them here, save these photos for Facebook.
  1. No “Selfies” – Instagram maybe, but using a professional shot on LinkedIn is your best choice.

We know some of you will find our comments controversial, or you may think well I’m not actively on the job market so who cares – but a good mentor once said to me, think of Facebook as a pub, Twitter as cocktail party and LinkedIn as a networking function. With that in mind, think of your current photo and ask yourself is this how you would present at a professional networking event or a job interview? Having a professional, clear and up to date photo combined with a complete profile with current title and key skills and competencies, will definitely help you stand out from the crowd. Having professional consistency across all platforms is key.

Is your job draining your spirit? 4 ways to see the light

By | Career, Recruitment

light“I hate my job”, “My boss is a control freak”, “I don’t feel valued”, “The moment I see my perfect job advertised, I’m out of here”……

The start of a new year can be an emotional time …. There has been the pressure of getting end of year work finished, the obligation and expectation of Christmas and families and then the burden of setting new goals and getting revved up for the year ahead. I find through our coaching practice, that January is actually one of the hardest months of the year for people to get their mojo back and feel inspired to make changes. It is usually easier to have a whinge, stay stuck in a rut and leave things the way they are.

So far, this year has been no different. We’ve had people in tears describing how much they hate their jobs and their boss, the frustration of there being limited opportunities in the market and we’ve heard every excuse under the sun of why this year will be no different!

Let me ask you this – are you unhappy in your job? Did you get emotional at the very thought of going to work today? Or does the concept of working for your boss for another 12 months make you want to crawl under a large boulder? Yes? Okay here’s the good news – you don’t have a problem. You have an opportunity.

You can A. stay and play the victim, continue to not take responsibility for your unfavourable employment situation and continue to bitch and complain to any person willing to listen or B. you can take charge and do something about it.

Step 1:  What’s really wrong?

Get crystal clear on what is really upsetting you. What is it specifically you don’t like? What are three examples in the past month where you haven’t got the outcome you were wanting at work? Did your boss or colleague rob you of an opportunity? Did you encounter a challenging conflict? Were you unsupported or feel like you your values were compromised? Until you can be really specific about the situations where you felt frustrated, angry or helpless, it is going to be difficult to work out a plan of attack.

Step 2:  Are you prepared to do something about it?

In my experience, the difference between successful people and those who just coast through with complacency is action. Successful people are prepared to take action and know the price – being uncomfortable. This week, I said to a coachee who is extremely unhappy in her job – “do you want this situation to change?”. “Of course!”, she pleaded. “But are you prepared to be outside your comfort zone to get there?”. She got clarity that the responsibility is hers and her’s alone and the journey of change is going to be uncomfortable and certainly at times difficult and emotional.

Step 3:  Knowing what it will take

Once you have accepted the challenge and ditched the ‘victim’ mentality, you will need a specific strategy on what you are going to do. Will you give your boss constructive feedback? Are you going to communicate directly and more effectively when you are feeling unhappy or unsupported? Will you brave enough to ask for what you want? Will you put a plan in place to get your desired outcome?

Step 4:  Action junkie

Just do it! Don’t over-think things, don’t make it harder that it needs to be, don’t get bogged down in the “what if’s”. Day in day out, give yourself the permission and commitment to do something about it. Wise words were once given to me that propelled me into action – life is too short to work with dickheads!

You only have one life! If you are consistently having those days where you are unfilled and wondering what you are doing, that you are not learning or growing in your current work situation or you find yourself dreading every interaction with your leader – it’s a sign that things could be better. When you’re brave enough to make that step, you will not only inspire yourself, but others around you to follow your lead and not accept the status quo. Sometimes it’s just time to move on – go on, do something about it, no-one else will do it for you!

 

7 Tips to Write a Cracker Cover Letter

By | Recruitment, Results

There is lots of competition for jobs right now. On average, we receive 150 applications per vacancy. There are fewer opportunities available and people are still looking to progress their careers. There is great talent in the market; it’s a good time to hire.

With such a high volume of applications and less than 5% being chosen for interview, it is absolutely critical that your cover letter stands out from the crowd.

It is surprisingly rare to read a cover letter that gets straight to the point, engages me or gives me a wow.  Why is that? I believe that the majority of applicants are over-thinking it, making it too formal and are talking more about themselves rather than about the company, role and opportunity.

What I’m looking for:

  1. Brief & Succinct – one page is sufficient.  You should be able to address the main points in a concise manner that gets straight to the point. When competition is strong, you had better get to the good stuff and quick!
  2. Skills & Experience – this makes it easy for the reader to make an immediate link and match as to why you are suitable for the role and they will keep reading. For example, I have a management degree and 10 years work experience in this particular industry. I’m looking for quick facts.
  3. Motivation – be clear on why you are applying for this job and not every other job advertised.  This motivation for applying can be the make or break reason for getting into the yes or no pile! It is the most essential piece of information I am looking for in a cover letter or when I ring someone to discuss their application – why were you motivated to apply for this job?
  4. Wow – state something upfront that will give the reader a WOW feeling about why you have applied. If there is a common interest, link or value match, it can be an instant rapport winner to get you in front. A letter I received last week, stated that they had applied for the role because this organisation had inspired them 10 years earlier to kick start their career in the health sector and major in health management with their MBA. It gave me an instant wow.
  5. Get Creative – don’t send me a tea bag and tell me to grab a cup of tea while I read your CV (a very old and cheesy gimmick in my opinion), but think about how your letter can stand out. Colour, a relevant graphic, a quote you live by, mention something about the organisation or industry that inspires you.
  6. Why them – the story you should tell is why you’re interested in this company and this particular role (it’s all about them).  Phrase your letter in terms of how you can help them and what you can bring to the role rather than just what’s in it for you and your career.
  7. Why you – in a letter you can reveal more about your personality, values and motivation (not so easy to do in a resume, which is more factual). Be clear on how you can contribute and potentially solve the organisation’s problems or challenges.

Remember 95% of applicants are being rejected due to poor cover letters and resumes including incorrect spelling, generic “to whom it may concern”, long winded, lengthy and irrelevant information that doesn’t demonstrate any motivation for the role. Never use a standard cover letter that lacks specific detail related to this company and this role – we can spot them a mile away and it is an automatic indication of laziness and a genuine lack of interest.

If you really want to get to the front of the line – simple, honest and genuine communication that represents motivation, careful thought and a unique proposition. A cracker cover letters involves being real, telling a story and demonstrating desire. Come on …. give me a WOW!

 

 

 

Do your interviews stink? 10 ways to turn pro

By | Attraction, Recruitment

This week I met with a promising new client. They have a handful of vacancies, one position that has been vacant for 3 months and another that they have interviewed 30 candidates for (yes, face to face) and still haven’t found the right candidate. Hmmmm…. Houston we have a problem!

The managers are pulling their hair out as it is taking too long to find and appoint talent and the HR team is frustrated that the leaders aren’t taking more ownership of the process.  Clearly what they are currently doing is not working. They need to change and fast! It got me thinking about the basics of interviewing.

1. Prepare – have you read their resume prior to the candidate walking in the door? I remember years ago a client asked one of my consultants after an interview why the candidate was walking with a limp.  On the resume it detailed his involvement in the Paralympics after having his leg amputated in an accident years earlier. It could have been an awkward moment if the client had asked the candidate directly or worse still…..made a joke about it! Reading all details on a resume allows you to be on the front foot (pardon the pun) and demonstrates to the candidate that you are interested in their background and are taking the process seriously.

2. Welcome – make sure the receptionist knows who will be arriving and at what time so the candidate can be greeted in a professional manner.  I had a meeting the other week and within 3 seconds of walking in, the receptionist got up from her desk walked around to greet me by name and took me straight into a meeting room where I was offered tea, coffee or water. Wow! What a welcome. Simple, but so effective. I was immediately impressed.  Also consider where you will be interviewing and make sure the environment is creating a great first impression, not like the other week when I observed dirty coffee cups from the last interview still on the desk!

3. Timing – a structured behavioural based interview should take 45 minutes to an hour. However, depending on the role and how many people are on an interview panel, interviews can blow out past this allocated time. Make sure you either stick to the schedule or have a fudge factor between candidates. Don’t make the mistake one large company made with one of my friends when his interview went over and on his way out he met the other candidate short listed for the role. He just happened to be an old colleague he had only spoken to days earlier for advice on the role! Awkward!

4. Icebreakers – I have observed many client interviews and it seems one of the hardest parts for people who don’t interview that often are the first 30 seconds to a minute. I have seen full silence where no one knows what to say through to immediate drilling of candidates with a barrage of questions.  We need a warm up folks! No matter how experienced a candidate is, there is always going to be nerves, so having some small talk from reception to the meeting room is essential before settling into more of the formalities of the process.

5. 1st question – I know most inexperienced interviewers tend to run a less structured interview and that can be okay, but one word of advice, have your first question ready.  Go for something open and general to get things moving for the candidate. I recommend so tell me about your current work situation or how is that you are in front of us today?

6. Technique – we all have our own styles and way of asking and extracting information, so when you get to the end of the hour to ensure you have got all the information you were after, have three areas to investigate – skills and experience (years, industry, qualifications, tasks), competencies (learned behaviors eg: communication, analytical skills) and finally motivation (rational and emotional) around why this job? Otherwise you risk an hour of chatting and getting off track, the result being that you can’t accurately assess the candidate’s suitability.

7. Close – winding up the discussion is just as important as the welcome. Thanking the candidate for their time, asking if they have any further questions and then telling them what the next steps will be in the process. I also like walking them to the door / lift, shaking their hand and encouraging them to call within the agreed timeframe.  This leaves a lasting impression.

8. Summary/rating /concerns – once the candidate leaves, don’t answer the phone, check your emails or race off to your next meeting, take 10 minutes to write down your thoughts. Do a pros and cons list. What could this candidate bring to your business, what answers did they rate highly on? On the flip side, where are there still question marks that need to be flushed out. Give them an overall rating to compare with other candidates.

9. Response & speed – you know the biggest gripe from job seekers is that companies don’t get back to them.  If you are going to the effort of interviewing someone face to face, then you should give them the courtesy of ringing them and telling them verbally why they didn’t get the job. Honesty and respect go a long way in building your reputation as an employer of choice. Speed is also another crucial ingredient to a successful interview process.  Don’t wait 4 weeks to get back to people – trust me they will have forgotten you by then and probably taken a more attractive offer.  Ask yourself what your expectations would be? 7 days at a maximum.

10. Feedback – don’t take the wimps way out and say “Sorry; there was a more suitable candidate.” No kidding!! That’s why you’re not offering them the job. But specifically what did that candidate demonstrate more effectively or what was missing? It is extremely rare for someone to get defensive if the feedback is delivered in an honest, genuine and specific manner. After all, anything that you can offer them to improve their chances next time will be appreciated.

Some of you may ask, “Why do all this if we don’t like the candidate and we know we aren’t going to hire them. Why go to all this effort?” One answer – market reputation.   As much as you might find it easy to hire one person today, there is still a skills shortage and depending on roles, availability, timing or competition you might just find yourself in a situation of trying to attract talent to your organisation and role.  It is still very much a two-way street in the employment market, so do your best to ensure the candidate leaves wanting the job, wanting to join the team and with an overall positive impression of their dealings and interaction with you and your company.

Interviewing is a skill.  It takes time, practice and preparation to ensure it is an effective exercise that achieves the end result of assessing a candidate’s suitability for your vacancy.

Want your team to get the edge on interviewing techniques? Speak to Nicole about workshops and coaching programs here.