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Entree Recruitment Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

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.

Does your job spec answer the question “what’s in it for me?”

By | Attraction, Recruitment

When was the last time you read a job description that was fresh, dynamic, exciting and evoked an emotional response? Even better – it really made you want the job? Probably never is my guess. That’s because job descriptions are usually old, boring, outdated and too long. They are costing you candidates! In today’s market, the highest quality candidates – the talent that companies are finding so hard to attract, recruit and retain – have estimated drop off rates as high as 90% once they have read a job description.  Some of the reasons include:

  1. Doesn’t excite or engage them
  2. Work looks exactly the same as their current position
  3. Their skills don’t meet all the “essential” criteria
  4. Unclear, unprofessional and ‘reactive’ language
  5. Long documents that don’t capture their interest

What doesn’t work 

Imagine all that effort you have put into writing an advertisement, all that money you have spent using attraction strategies and all that time invested in the recruitment process wasted all because of one document.  The truth is that job descriptions have traditionally been a document kept on file by human resources as a ‘must have’ that outlines all tasks, skills, qualifications and experience required to do a certain job within an organisation.  These ineffective job descriptions often include spelling errors, use of internal jargon, are often way too long and wordy as well as being unclear and visually unappealing.

The reality today is that these documents are now being judged by commercially savvy job seekers who know what they want, will pick and choose the jobs they apply for and ultimately accept.  They don’t want just any job – they want an opportunity that presents a better challenge than the one they are currently doing.  Once they read a job description that essentially sounds like the job they are already doing – where is the incentive to change?

The opportunity

This is where the opportunity lies! Most organisations are missing this sales opportunity to entice, engage and excite candidates into their organisation through having an up-to-date, professional and different job description.   If used effectively, a job description can become a sales tool to showcase each opportunity within your organisation as a unique proposition that proves a commitment to investing in people, each role and a strategic recruitment strategy to find the best talent in the market.  One of the best examples I have seen this year was an Editor role with the on-line business community Flying Solo – it was a true sales document, pitching the best parts of the role and what outcomes you would be responsible for driving and how this position contributed to the overall direction of the organisation. In addition, came a values document which detailed ‘what mattered most’ to the organisation and explaination of their five core values and culture. It was inspiring! Needless to say they got a great response and did not have shortage of candidates to interview.

Tips to achieving effective job descriptions include:

  1. Short & simple (not more than 3 pages)
  2. Stating an overall purpose of the role (expressed as an outcome, not an action)
  3. Most exciting tasks and challenges (not all of them)
  4. Outcomes to be produced and key result areas
  5. Transferable skills required to be successful
  6. Current (reviewed every 12 months as a minimum)
  7. Visually appealing

Job descriptions should be used as an attraction tool to encourage candidates to investigate your opportunity further, not to dismiss it and decide on their own accord that it is not worth pursuing.  What are the most exciting parts of your role and how can that be expressed effectively? Is “seeking 5 years SAP experience” as exciting as saying “use your SAP knowledge to lead our system implementation team”?

Keeping job descriptions specific, up to date and focused on the most challenging aspects of a job will result in a wider and higher quality of candidates for you to choose from.  And remember people apply for the work that they will be doing, not the skills they possess – the tip is to write your job descriptions with this in mind.  Candidates in this market have one subconscious question they want answered “what’s in it for me?” and your job as the employer is to demonstrate how your opportunity is better than their current situation and to draw them into the possibility of something better.

nicoleunderwood.com delivers tailored solutions for recruiting and retaining top talent.  

Taking the ‘sales’ out of salesperson…10 ways to increase performance

By | Performance, Results, Sales

“I’m not a sales person” “I don’t like cold calling” “I can’t sell” “sales is not a strength of mine”…are all typical to hear around the Entrée Recruitment office. My Consultants don’t see themselves as sales people, yet we have just achieved our most successful financial year in our 10-year history.  They think sales is a dirty word associated with the image of a used car salesman – someone who is annoying, not particularly helpful and is just trying to make a quick buck! I roll my eyes and mostly just laugh because my team can think they aren’t sales people, but they are and they do it without reallising they are doing it.  So how does a team of non-sales people achieve such high sales results?

Observing the behaviours of these Consultants, I have consistently found the following:

  1. Action – the Consultants making the most sales are always taking action. They are never wondering what to do next, who to call or procrastinating the day away. They just do it. They get on the phone; they get face to face and make decisions quickly.
  2. Feedback – I’ve got a Consultant who has worked in the industry longer than me and she is still consistently wanting to know how she is going, what could she do differently and is welcoming of joint visits and interview observations.  The benefits to her far outweigh the possibility of her feeling uncomfortable. She tells me it is a small price to pay to gain one extra piece of advice that may increase her sales and bring her more success in the long term.
  3. Referrals – my team use an effective face-to-face technique that involves asking existing clients to recommend other people that they think we would enjoy working with. It takes courage to ask and discipline to follow up. Much easier than making a cold call!
  4. Relationships – building longstanding relationships results in repeat purchase clients.  When you have a huge number of clients and are always seeking new ones, you can often forget about existing ones.  Our strategy is fewer clients – stronger relationships.
  5. Curiosity in people – one of my team members says “I hate the sales stuff…but I do like meeting new people and finding out what they do”.  She has a natural desire to ask questions and learn about businesses and people, so the end result is that she is building relationships and selling without realising that she is even doing it!
  6. Listening skills – the best ‘sales people’ at Entrée are the best listeners. They usually have a ratio of 80/20 of listening and talking. They understand they get the best information when they actually shut up. The worst performing Consultants I’ve had over the years like talking mostly about themselves and clients don’t buy!
  7. Reasons to call – you will rarely hear a top performer at Entrée saying “I’m just calling to touch base”.  No client has time for this, we certainly don’t! What is the purpose of the call? Get to the point as quickly as you can as not to annoy the other person with irrelevant chitchat.
  8. Belief & confidence– top sales people have a natural self-confidence. They don’t have huge egos and can articulate their value proposition without being overly pushy.
  9. Organisation – people who are naturally good at sales always know what they need to do, write it down and work from 1 daily to do list. These tasks are very specific and the hardest things are done first as not to distract them from their day. For example, one of my consultants the other day seemed a bit off her game. By 11am, she was noticeably irritable and when I checked in, she hadn’t ticked anything of her list and she was feeling unproductive.  It turned out that she had to make a difficult call to a client and was putting it off.   As soon as she had made the call, she felt clear and didn’t have this hanging over her head, clouding the rest of her day.
  10. Deliver quality – you can’t be a top sales person without delivering what you promise at the pitch.  High performing Consultants at Entrée consistently deliver what they say they will. If they say they will call back in 24 hours, they do. If they say they will be back in 3 weeks with a shortlist, they are.  Some sales people can talk the talk, but fall down in the actual promise of walking the walk.

In any business, being able to sell is an essential skill to achieving long-term financial success. Being able to communicate your value effectively for people to buy your product or service is critical.  In the early days of my career, it was a long hard road and  some days seemed impossible.  The turnaround for me was being persistent, consistent and determined.  I made my sales activity an every day task that I incorporated in my daily agenda rather than it being a one off event when business was quiet.

At the end of the day, successful sales is about building rapport initially and then establishing long term relationships with people.  Let’s not complicate this…. if people like you; they will spend money with you. Ask great questions, listen, deliver and your sales will sky rocket.

On reflection, maybe I should be happy in the fact that my team don’t think of themselves as ‘sales people’ – with this mindset they are focused on what really works – building relationships, delivering a quality service and being passionate about what they do. The outcome…increased sales!

Trust ‘ya’ gut! Do you overlook this recruitment tool?

By | Recruitment

You know that little “something” that niggles at you, the voice in your head or that “thing” you can’t quite put our finger on.  “It” often prevents us from making decisions or if we ignore it, we end up kicking ourselves that we didn’t listen to it when we make the wrong decision.

Gut instinct, a feeling, intuition, I can’t explain it, I can’t teach it and to be honest at interview I can’t assess whether you have it either. So it becomes very frustrating and hard to justify using your ‘gut’ in recruitment because it is subjective.  It isn’t based on fact or skill.  It’s that intangible intuition that you develop over time through interviewing hundreds and hundreds of people and observing human behaviour in what can be one of life’s most stressful situations – a job interview.

A few weeks ago I was interviewing a candidate who had a great CV, presented well face to face, answered all the behavioural based interview questions well and gave great reasons for wanting the job….but there was just something missing, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I kept asking more questions and yet my gut was saying something is not quite right here – but I had no facts to back it up.  This was quite unsettling because in recruitment I like a valid reason to say no I’m not going to refer this candidate to this job or to my client.  However, within 24 hours my gut proved right through this candidate not following up with promised referee names and numbers and a failure to follow simple instructions – my gut was right.

To use this “recruitment tool” to its full potential, here’s what I’ve learnt:

  • Acknowledge the feeling – something isn’t quite right here, I’m not 100% sure what it is, but I recognise I’m not completely sold or comfortable
  • Ask questions – to validate the concern or to prove yourself wrong, you need to ask great questions to find the facts
  • Time – if you can’t find the answer immediately or evidence to make you go one way or the other, sit on the decision for at least 24 hours (something always tends to come up after the event)
  • Seek advice – can you gain a referral or speak to someone who has dealt with this person, product or service to give you some feedback on perhaps what did or didn’t work for them? This process, might clarify that gut instinct for you.
  • Previous experience – if you have made similar decisions in the past and been right, then it is reasonable to use this gut instinct again and realise that you have made a similar decision correctly in the past. For example, I have chosen not to hire experienced Consultants working for competitors due to my gut feeling that they won’t fit into the Entrée Recruitment culture.  This is very difficult to listen to when everything on paper is telling me they would be a good hire. Previous experience tells me it won’t work so I don’t ignore this urge to hire just on skills and experience (see previous blog Who’s hot and who’s not….what the perfect resume won’t tell you).

This isn’t only in recruitment – it occurs in all parts of life’s decision making.  I know for myself, I haven’t listened to this intuition on several occasions around picking service providers for our new house.  The disaster with our blinds could have been prevented if I had listened to my gut and the warning signs of cancelled appointment times, not returning phone calls and then the commented “yeh we’ve never sold these types of blinds before….”! I think sometimes we just get in situations where we hope that things will work out even when we can feel those little butterflies in the stomach trying to tell us something.

At the end of the day we all make incorrect decisions and we learn from these mistakes. The hard part is when we ignore our gut feelings and continue to make the wrong decisions.

Trust your gut – it is rarely wrong! In the recruitment world we have hundreds of tools at our disposable to help make the correct hiring decisions – screening measurements, tests, interviews, reference checks, coffee meetings and psychological assessments and yes they have their place in the recruitment process. But when was the last time you used this very powerful recruitment tool of gut instinct? Did it work? Would you use it again?

From little things big things grow…are you overlooking support staff?

By | Recruitment

There is nothing that gets me fired up more than a company that ignores the importance of support staff and the role they play in an organisation’s success. I see it every day in recruitment.

A company hiring a Receptionist recently said “this is the least important role in our company; just send us some CV’s”. Where do I start with this? The Receptionist is the first person your clients see and speak to, financially, this is still a $60K – $80K decision (salary + on-costs + training time + recruitment fees) and if your company is anything like mine, this is the training ground for internal promotion and future top talent! Get this hire wrong and you will potentially lose business and harm the company’s reputation. On the flip side, if the Receptionist is smart, competent and professional – this reflects that your business is smart, competent and professional.

Every day companies are missing the importance of getting these administration and support roles right. At Entrée Recruitment, my current PA started as the Receptionist and another is now a Consultant – all groomed and trained from the front desk.  Think of the recruitment costs I saved, the culture fit I already had right, the reduced risk of a new hire and the delight in providing career development. A bigger picture perspective rather than this is “just the Receptionist” can give you a long term competitive advantage.

One of the most frustrating support roles to recruit is a Personal Assistant or Executive Assistant.  Typically they support a Senior Executive such as General Manager, Director or CEO and such an important role needs to be given the recruitment attention it deserves. Unfortunately, what generally happen is that it is delegated to HR to ‘find some resumes’ and the Executive only gets involved in the last interviews declaring that “no-one is suitable” and there is “no chemistry”.  Gee I wonder why? You didn’t get involved from the start, you didn’t meet the Recruiter and you didn’t give a personal briefing on your requirements. It is virtually impossible to recruit a PA for someone you haven’t met.

To get this right and save you time, money and long term headaches with hiring the wrong person means committing to the process upfront like you would to hire a Senior Executive. 

  1. Personal briefing – meet the Recruiter who will be recruiting this role for you. Ensure they can demonstrate experience recruiting similar roles, are knowledgeable of the market, salaries and can recommend a proactive recruitment strategy.  It’s okay to have HR involved, but the person this role supports must be at the briefing.
  2. $ – commit to paying top dollar for this recruitment, like you would for an executive recruitment campaign. You get what you pay for, so a resume  flicking race by 4 different recruiters is not going to deliver you a top notch candidate. Your role also loses its ‘exclusive’ factor when every Recruiter in town all ring the same candidates for the same job….”what’s wrong with this role?” “they must be desperate” will be what goes through the candidate’s mind.
  3. Realistic expectations – don’t expect international experience, shorthand, board experience and to pay $50K.  Experienced Executive Assistants will save you money and increase your productivity – pay for the privilege or reduce your expectations.
  4. Honesty about your strengths & weaknesses – being honest with yourself and the Recruiter about your leadership style and what has frustrated previous Assistants is a good thing! It will mean that the match will be more accurate and your new Assistant knows what they are in for. If you are like the famous Adelaide business owner who likes his highlighters lay out in particular order for a board meeting – tell us! If you want your coffee cup pre-warmed and stirred in an anticlockwise direction two times – we need to know (yes that was a Partner in a law firm!).
  5. History – what has/hasn’t worked in the past – think of your best Assistant in the past – what made them so effective? What has completely frustrated you about others?  Be clear on what you want to see in your next hire.
  6. Training – not all Assistants will do things the same way and of course as Leaders we like things done differently to.  Assistants can’t read your mind – tell them early in the relationship how you would like things done and always correct them if you want something different.  Don’t hope it will get better – it won’t.  Training from day 1 is essential to develop and nurture a great working relationship.
  7. Invest in time & feedback – would you let a senior manager go weeks on end with no feedback on their performance, especially if they weren’t meeting your expectations? Of course not, you would probably have a weekly meeting and give them specific examples of what is working and what isn’t.  Do the same with your Assistant – feedback is the only way people will keep doing the things you like and stop doing the things you don’t.

Over the years my best Assistants became business partners – a person I could trust, make decisions in my absence and rely on to help improve my business results. The worst Assistants took up my time, created more work for me and clashed with the rest of the team.

I have learnt that support roles are critical to business results, workforce harmony and leadership productivity. Invest upfront, get the fit right and never underestimate the power of an effective Assistant.

Can you easily re-call your best & worst Assistant? Tell me – I would love to hear!

One of my best EA hires – Niamh – congratulations on the birth of your little boy George this week.

Who’s hot and who’s not…what the perfect resume won’t tell you

By | Recruitment


Interviewing, recruitment, hiring, finding the right candidate….it’s easy! It’s not rocket science. How hard can it be, get resumes, interview, have a chat, make an offer – done! If only this was true….

Last week I was doing the school drop off and was asked independently by two separate parents in business how to pick the right person at interview. How long have you got??? One was disillusioned by a highly talented person leaving to take a very similar role elsewhere with the only obvious added benefit seeming to be ‘working closer to home’.  The other was being challenged by picking an internal hire from 20 great resumes that all seemed to have the right technical experience.  Both were apprehensive due to incorrect hires in the past that initially looked right on paper. They were desperate for the secret ingredient, the right answer, the one thing that I could tell them that they didn’t know to ask at interview to get it right.

Subsequently, I was called to a meeting on Monday with a client who was completely frustrated and surprised when what they thought was a ‘perfect hire’, resigned after 2 months.  They too wanted to know where did they go wrong, when the resume appeared to be perfect?

First and foremost – recruiting people is not easy. Picking the right person is even harder.  We do it every day here at Entrée Recruitment and see, hear, talk and advise clients on how to do it better. It is an ongoing battle for most business owners – finding, recruiting and retaining the right people.

Here’s what all three situations had in common – you must look beyond what’s on paper and what’s technically being said at interview and hire for culture and motivational fit.

I agree that skills and experience are important.  They are necessary in the recruiting process, but what causes you headaches and performance issues goes well beyond being able to do the job, it’s a person’s ability to fit in and being in the role for the right reasons.

How do you determine this? It’s not fool proof, but here are some quick guidelines that I follow in a recruitment process to increase my odds:

  1. Technical skills & experience – is easy to assess from a resume, very factual, qualifications, systems experience etc. Some level of experience is still needed for most roles.
  2. Competencies –what are the competencies they need to do the job eg: teamwork, decision making, achievement drive. The key is that they must give a SPECIFIC example of a time when they have demonstrated this competency. This will usually occur in 3 parts (tell me about a time when…., what did you do and what was the outcome). If they don’t give a specific, they don’t have the competency. Don’t ignore this – even if the resume is fantastic – if they can’t answer these questions, they won’t be a high performer in the job.
  3. Motivation – this is often the trickiest part of the interview to assess. It involves asking questions around why they want the job, what is their perfect job, what other jobs have they applied for, why have they left previous jobs, what makes them stay with an employer, what makes them leave, who has been their favourite boss, who inspires them and why, where has been the best/worst culture they have worked in. Did I mention why they want this job? Not just any job. Why this job above others in the paper and on the net? And then tell me again why you want it – make sure they convince you.
  4. Warning signs – this is usually around behaviour during or post interview. For example, I had a candidate tell me they would call me Monday to confirm their interest in a job at Entrée, they called Tuesdayat 5pm. For me and my culture, this is a warning sign they wouldn’t fit in as one of our values is integrity – you do what you say you will do.
  5. Reasons for leaving – don’t ever accept the first reason.  I ask several times on the same job – tell me what were your reasons for leaving? What else contributed to you leaving? What other reasons were behind this decision? Probe, probe, probe and look for patterns of behaviour.

As I picked up my daughter from school yesterday, one of these parents thanked me, telling me how much easier her three interviews had been that day. Her change in questions towards motivation and culture opened up her thinking about what was being said at interview, if they would fit her team and it increased her confidence in making the right hire.

In my experience, motivation and cultural fit is more important than skills and experience.  The culture fit and motivation buys you loyalty, commitment and top performers who in the long term outshine the power CV with a technical answer for everything at interview.  Go with your gut – will you and your team enjoy working with this person every day of the week? And whatever you do – don’t “hope” that it will work out – it never does. Hope is not a recruitment strategy.

How to retain top talent

By | Retention

The recruitment industry is notorious for high staff turnover. Statistics range from 43% (Staff Turnover: A Recruitment Industry Crisis) to the average length of service of a new Recruitment Consultant being 8 months! Ironic for an industry that specialises in recruiting the right staff for their clients to make a buck!

So interesting as I reflect on my recruitment career, that I too left my first recruitment role after exactly 8 months.  I didn’t leave because it was too hard or I wasn’t succeeding, in fact the opposite was true – I was out billing the existing consultants, thriving in a new corporate career and enjoying my interactions with clients and candidates.  I left because of leadership (lack of it) and culture.

I left the industry. I had no other job to go to. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I was going to do. The following year, I was put back on my path to success by two of my mentors Greg Savage and Ross Clennett.  They hired me to assist in the start up of the Adelaide office of Recruitment Solutions and what a refreshing approach! They practiced what they preached; they were only interested in top performance regardless of years of experience or age (I was only 21!). I was treated as an equal member of the team, they believed in me and I delivered what they expected – top performance. The outcome – I loved the culture, was inspired by the leadership and stayed.

Two different examples and two different outcomes based on the same criteria.

Now 9.5 years into leading Entrée Recruitment in Adelaide, I have learnt many of my retention lessons the hard way – through making mistakes in the first place.  I won’t say its fool proof, but I am confident the recipe is working as the average length of service for my consulting team is 5 years.  Some of the key ingredients include:

  1. Recruit the right people – competencies, attitude and culture fit is mandatory.  Forget experience and length of service in a similar role.
  2. Believe in them – assume people want to perform at their best and relate to them as a top performer, don’t expect anything less.
  3. Empower others – being the leader doesn’t mean making all the decisions and that I know best.
  4. Flexibility – give people the tools and freedom to achieve their goals.
  5. Feedback –recognising top performance ensures that it happens again and people learn the most when they are uncomfortable.

How can you retain top talent? It’s not about money and perks such as days off for your birthday and free yoga classes – although nice and staff will appreciate it, it isn’t what gets them to stick around long term. Its 2 things – leadership and culture.

Become a better leader, have great systems and an inspiring culture.  Only then can you attract the top talent that will stay.