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Jobs 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.

Recruiting an Executive? Don’t make this mistake

By | Executive Search, Recruitment

Are you about to recruit your next Executive? Don’t make this mistake when outsourcing to an external Consultant or Recruiter. There are a number of key factors to ensure the role is filled with the best candidate from the market. How will you trust that your Consultant will find that needle in the haystack and the very best person available for your vacancy?

There are a number of key factors that clients should consider such as:

  • Reputation / brand
  • Track record / expertise
  • Cost
  • Consultant relationship
  • Methodology / offering
  • Value-added services

What sets Consultants apart is not the shiny brand or website, not the long list of placements, or the most competitive bid. The real difference is the Consultant’s ability to manage, negotiate and consult through what is a very emotional, intuitive and onerous process. A Consultant’s ability to read people, situations and solutions is paramount. This becomes even more crucial when conducting executive search. Your Consultant needs to know when to push you and your board to move faster, to make a decision, to challenge your thinking, question your assumptions and ensure you have your eyes wide open to all the positives, as well as development areas or concerns.

On the candidate side, the consultant has the responsibility to build a relationship, get inside their head, know what makes them tick, know when they are holding back, know when to put pressure on, when to take pressure off and ultimately how to manoeuvre the candidate through what can become a competitive bid process.

This was the case I heard this week.  A friend of mine was going through two different recruitment processes for two different roles. They were neck and neck in terms of his level of interest and in terms of where they were both at in the process – both second interview with each respective panel. He was equally interested. He was equally committed. What got him over the line? The relationship with his Consultant and their ability to move fast and to run a true executive process, rather than a transaction-based recruitment process. There were phone calls, consultation, probing questions, availability and check ins over the weekend (both Saturday and Sunday), which resulted him taking that job at 9am on the Monday.

The other firm was rushing at the final hour with final reference checks and testing, then knocking off at 5pm Friday and said “talk to you again on Monday”.  While they were enjoying their weekend, the other Executive Consultant was doing the deal – keeping the board and their candidate informed to enable them to have a signed contract on Monday morning.

There is a difference between executive search and contingent or main-stream traditional recruitment. It doesn’t only lie in the fees (which may seem an attractive proposition when comparing proposals), it lies in the firm’s ability to run an executive search process that goes far beyond ‘filling a job’.

In the highly skilled area of executive search, you don’t often see what goes beyond the fine print of the proposal: it’s the nuts and bolts, it’s the people skills, it’s a Consultant’s ability to earn trust and go beyond the shiny, slick proposal with pages of placement history, to embody warmth, trust and competence to negotiate the finer points that will ultimately result in a win for all parties involved.

How will you choose your next Consultant?

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.

Offer rejected? 8 ways to increase your acceptance rate

By | Recruitment, Results

 

offer rejectedRecruiting successfully is not easy.  It can be time consuming, expensive, emotional, distracting from core business activities and ultimately hard work.  So imagine after weeks and weeks of searching, screening, calls, correspondence, interviews, follow-ups and difficult decision making, you finally decide to offer your preferred candidate.  You’re excited and relieved.  A decision has finally been made. You ring, make the offer, send out the paperwork and wait. 24 hours, 48 hours – why haven’t you heard? Where is their signed contract?

It is that moment when your candidate – the one that was meant to be starting in 4 weeks, calls (or worse sends an email or text) to say they are declining your offer. What? Where did it go wrong? It is an extremely frustrating situation as suddenly you’re back at the start of the process after months of hard work.  Now it’s time to back track, re-advertise or maybe try to re-engage the rejected short list.  How can you best avoid this situation altogether and increase your chances of an offer acceptance?

1. Employer value proposition – are you easily able to articulate why your company and this opportunity may appeal to potential candidates? Be clear on what the selling points are; describe the culture, career paths and opportunities.  Explain what top performance looks like and give examples of the values that people abide by. Competition for talent is always going to be there, no matter what the market conditions are, so make sure you can articulate your culture in an honest and compelling way.

2. Counter offer investigation – from the very first interview, check reasons for leaving their current employment. Don’t ask only once, try two or three times throughout the interview to ensure you are getting the REAL reason for leaving.  Are they fishing in the market for a higher salary to take to their boss to get their own pay increase? Also look for patterns of behaviour – you will often find that people consistently leave positions for similar reasons, so make sure your opportunity doesn’t fall into this similar category.

3. Salary & benefits – salary may not rate as the number one reason for taking another job these days.  In fact, the decision is usually more about culture, leadership and growth opportunities.  However, if the financial arrangements are too far below a candidate’s current situation, you are at risk of them declining your offer. Make sure this conversation is not left to the last minute and then realising that there is a problem.

4. Real motivation – one of the most important aspects to gain from an interview is someone’s motivation. This covers both emotional (challenge, job security etc) and rational (money, job title etc) motivators.  If your opportunity can’t satisfy both these aspects for a candidate, you are at high risk of them declining an eventual offer of employment or being successfully counter-offered. Don’t forget leaving or staying is primarily an emotional decision.

5. Job pipeline – how active is this candidate in the market? Do they have lots of interviews, have they just commenced or are they close to an offer of employment with someone else? You don’t need intimate details and of course this could be inappropriate to ask, but from where you stand, you need to know.  Don’t be left in the dark about their other activity in the job market to avoid being pipped at the post.

6. Trial close – don’t wait until the end of the process before making the only formal offer of employment. After a second interview, if you feel you are getting close to making an offer, try using a hypothetical.  “Hypothetically, if I offered you the role today, what would you say?” The beauty of this question is it will bring any hesitation or concerns to fore pretty quickly and addressing these before a formal offer, increases your chances of an acceptance.

7.Verbal offer – if possible, don’t send out a full contract or letter of employment until you have verbal acceptance.  Keep control of the process and don’t give the opportunity to played off with a current employer and enter a bidding war.

8. Resignation management – resigning can be a difficult process, especially if the candidate has a good relationship with their direct supervisor.  Talk to the candidate about when they think they might resign. Have they considered how they will approach it? Sharing a war story or giving some friendly advice at this stage can take some pressure off the candidate and give them confidence to deliver the news.  Always make sure the candidate rings you once they have resigned so you can be sure they are on board.

I will never forget the professional services firm who sent out a bottle of champagne with an offer of employment, only for it not to be signed and the candidate joined a competitor organisation!  Never ever celebrate a new hire until the ink is dry on the contract and they have resigned.

Be confident, in control and clear throughout the hiring process.  This will ensure all parties are on the same page before any contracts are drafted and welcome emails sent.  Engaging the right talent from the very start will save embarrassment, frustration and ultimately re-work.

 

Are you struggling to find and hire the right people? At nicoleunderwood we specialise in executive search, recruitment and retention strategies. Contact us here to discuss how we can assist in finding and keeping the right talent for your organisation. 

 

Have you been conned? 5 ways to avoid a bad hire!

By | Recruitment

How many times have you hired a dud? How many times have you kicked yourself for not following your gut and made a poor recruitment decision? Was it that they were 5 minutes late for their interview, did they have a sweaty handshake, were they reluctant to provide relevant referees or was it that unexplained gap in their CV when they were taking a ‘career break’?

After a recent conversation with an employer, they told me about a senior executive they had to let go after they failed to deliver the agreed outcomes and how their dictatorial leadership style nearly destroyed the organisation’s culture.  I was curious – how did you hire this candidate in the first place? Where did the recruitment process go wrong? It seems it was just one mistake after another.

Here are my 5 key tips to avoid making a decision you may regret:

1.     First impressions

There’s a lot to be said about first impressions.  Tell me, was the cover letter a generic template? Did they address your name and title correctly? Did you receive their application within 5 minutes of you posting the vacancy online? What about their LinkedIn profile? Don’t ignore first impressions – no matter how great their experience and skills appear on paper.  Sure, sometimes the right candidate might be late for your interview for a genuine reason and they may apply immediately on-line due to being in the right place at the right time. However and this is a big however, when things don’t start adding up or you have a ‘feeling’ – stop, take a look back and you may see a pattern of question marks or incidents that might make you reconsider the consistency and quality of the applicant.

2.     Interview attire

I’ve written previously is the business suit dead? In my experience, candidates who are making the effort and really going all out to impress – which often include wearing a suit, do tend to be the ones who make it to a shortlist. Recently, I was recruiting a Business Development Manager and every male applicant I interviewed wore a full matching suit and tie. In the past, when I have had candidates come to interview for executive roles in more informal attire and I have ignored this or given them a ‘pass’, it seems that they then slip up later in the process. Don’t ignore first impressions – they count.

3.     Gut feeling

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach that is screaming something is not quite right here? Don’t ignore it. Don’t bury it, flush it out.  If you can’t identify exactly what it is, my advice is having another meeting in a more casual environment when someone is more likely to relax and be themselves. You can take someone else with you from the organisation for a second opinion or you may wish to ask them some scenario questions such as what would you do in the first 30 days if you win this job? Finally, you can conduct reference checking.  End of the day, if you can’t qualify what you feel in your gut, my advice is don’t hire because when something eventually doesn’t go to plan or pan out, you will kick yourself for not listening to your intuition.

4.     Referees

This is where a lot of recruitment processes fail.  You only have to look at serial applicants or non-performers who are continually re-hired – how did that happen? They weren’t reference checked at all or they were referenced with the wrong people.  Speaking to the right referee is a skill and then asking the right questions to get the answers you are after can be the difference between hiring a star vs. hiring a dud.  Are you accepting mobile phone numbers? Are you qualifying the person is who they say they are? Or are you just asking closed questions and fact checking? Don’t delegate this task as an administrative process as even the best con man, who can blitz an interview, can be “found out” at this stage.

5.     Theory vs. examples

Throughout the interview, make sure you are listening for real examples.  These are situations and examples the candidate has been in where they can easily describe the situation, what they did and what the outcome was.  If they are regurgitating theory or telling you what they would do vs what they have actually done – you should immediately visualise a neon warning sign flashing above their head.  When someone is out of their depth and hasn’t performed the tasks or been in the situations before, they won’t be able to be specific. If you can’t visualise the example – keep probing and get very specific.

Hiring a dud is an expensive, painful and emotional mistake. Getting the recruitment decision wrong can impact culture, destroy morale and consume your time, thoughts and energy.  The devils in the detail! Don’t short-cut processes just because you know someone who would be perfect or they have worked for some high profile brands, so they must be good. Rubbish. Running a thorough, consistent and vigorous process where you listen to facts, intuition and behaviours could save you a lot of time, heartache and pain.  Don’t ignore the warning signs…..there are red flags, there always are, you just need to know where to look.

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!