Over the last 15 years I have interviewed hundreds of senior executives; many who have been in the same role for more than five or ten years, and plenty that have never found themselves in the ‘job market’ before. Given only about 15% to 20% of all jobs are handled by search firms, this leaves the majority of roles through direct networks.
The question is: “How do you find the best opportunities, and when they are staring you in the face, how do you land them”?!
These are three strategies I would employ to stand out from the pack:
1. You are a brand, start acting like one
Be really clear on your proposition and what you are looking for (what industry and role title) and tailor this to your audience. Don’t be vague. Treat yourself like a brand that has a proposition; you must stand for something and be relevant to an audience.
Starbucks in Australia is a classic example that failed in its initial launch in Australia as they didn’t get the Australian consumer and tailor their offering to our needs. If a brand is launched and the audience doesn’t get what it stands for – it fails. This is no different to your career.
Don’t look for people to guide you or give you the answers. As a head-hunter, trust me, we are looking for people who are definitive and clear. It is ok if you adapt and modify your proposition depending on who you meet, as a means to uncover opportunities and make informed decisions. For example, you might say “I am looking for Divisional Manager, GM, or Commercial Director level role in the FMCG space”. This gives your audience the opportunity to make connections to potential roles they are working on (recruiters) or just as importantly your own network that might be able to refer you to someone. It makes it harder to refer a wishy washy individual who makes statements like, “I want a role which gives me a challenge and I can be strategic”. Whilst these are important, you need to spell out what you want and always be clear on the industry and role type.
2. Practice makes perfect, know where you add value
Be clear on where you add value. Have specific examples of things like leading change, managing people, etc. Be specific and well-rehearsed on how you will answer these types of questions. I like to hear candidates who keep it simple and explain examples in a consistent ‘story telling’ format such as what was the situation, the process and the outcome.
Situation: Provide content and be clear on what was the situation, where were you working, when it was. Be very specific here.
Process: describe the action and steps you took and always talk in first person “I did X”. Pretend you are writing this in bullet points on a white board. Don’t waffle and be really clear.
Outcome: describe what happened based on the action you took. What did you accomplish? What learnings did you take away? Always have % and $ in your examples.
Practice makes perfect and a technique to use in executing this process is to visualise these answers as ‘books on your bookshelf’. If an interviewer is asking you to provide examples around issues such as transformation or change, then pull that example “off the shelf” and deliver it in a compelling way. The answer will be compelling if it is well thought through and rehearsed.
3. You have to be a business developer
Have a 'business development approach' to getting out in the market. Don’t just rely on Seek and other job boards, or recruiters. Mine LinkedIn (your business development database) and your network! A basic LinkedIn account will allow you to search by title and industry. For example if you work in the chemicals industry and want to network with anyone who is a GM/CEO in this space, search on LinkedIn under ‘Title’ or ‘Key word’. It will bring a list of your first, second or third degree connections. This is now your ‘business development’ list. If you know people connected to someone, ask for an introduction (people love to help). Use the line that you are wanting to meet to “hear about their world, their industry” etc.
The three strategies above, if executed well, will absolutely ensure you stand out from the pack and track down the hidden jobs you may never have known about. Know your brand proposition and be on your 'A' game at all times. Practice makes perfect. You never know who might refer you to their colleague, HR department, CEO or make a recommendation on your behalf. No one will do this to someone who is vague, unclear or lacking confidence and doesn’t know what they stand for. Good luck!