How will you do in a Job search?

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Abstract: This article is the first in a series that explores the critical success factors of being successful in a competitive recruitment process.  Getting a ‘gig’ as an interim requires essentially the same method as landing a permanent job.  The primary difference is that the cycle time from initial contact to the decision on a potential interim engagement is much faster than it is when a permanent candidate is under consideration.  The articles on this topic are focused on helping the reader improve their probability of success in fiercely competitive recruitment, and all recruitments are competitive.

I have been involved with a lot of recruiting, and it is impressive that not only are individuals with executive talent significantly different, but their job seeking abilities are equally disparate.  In some cases, it is disheartening to witness how poorly some of these ‘professionals’ are prepared to compete head’s up in a talent search.  There have been cases where I knew a candidate and knew them to be much better than they came across in interviews.

I place most of the blame for poor job seeking performance at the feet of the incumbents, but I have been equally disappointed at how poorly some executive recruiters AKA headhunters prepare their recommended candidates to be successful in a competitive executive search AKA a beauty pageant.

In many respects, a search is a beauty pageant, hence the name.  All too frequently, the candidate selected is the one that is most charismatic to the decision maker(s) and not necessarily the best credentialed, experienced or qualified.  Sometimes personal biases, ulterior motives or politics influence executive search outcomes.  I believe that one of the reasons that some executives do so poorly in searches is that job hustling is not something they regularly do so their interviewing skills and other skills necessary to advance in a search are not well developed and practiced.  Getting yourself hired is a much more intense, skill dependent process than I believe many candidates appreciate.  This is especially true if you harbor disdain for selling.

Time after time, I have participated in executive recruitment where unprepared candidates spent the majority of their time just being themselves and treating their interview (at-bat) as a casual encounter like you would expect in a bar.  Zig Ziglar and others argue that most everything in life amounts to selling.  Like any other skill, the skill of selling (yourself) requires study, practice, and development if it is to be executed successfully.   Candidates that come up short in these competitions frequently blame recruiters or hiring decision makers instead of taking a look into their mirror.

If there was ever a time that your success selling is critical, it is when you are trying to sell strangers on the concept that hiring you will advance their personal and corporate objectives.  It is hard to tell where the adage came from, but sources suggest that people buy for only two reasons; solutions to problems or good feelings.  If you intend to successfully convince the hiring decision maker that you are the correct choice among a strong field of competitors, to which of their motivations do you want to appeal?  If you do not believe that a hiring decision maker is choosing the candidate, they feel will best make their life easier or themselves more successful, you are naive.  What do you do when you are the decision maker on a recruitment?

Some hiring decision makers are not very sophisticated, and as I have facilitated searches, I have observed them making bizarre, irrational or emotional decisions when choosing a candidate from a search pool.  For example, I witnessed a C-Suite candidate getting ruled out of a search because his wife had a visible tattoo on her leg.  Others are more deliberate and analytical, and they will make a more objective, reasoned decision.  What kind of decision maker are you up against?  How can you tell?   Of course, this assumes you ever make it past step one.

Executive recruitment, especially a retained search is like a funnel or a pyramid.  The recruiter starts with a large number of applications from initial sourcing and gets down to less than ten that are presented to the client.  If the initial sourcing turns up 300 potential candidates which is common and you put your pony into the show, you have about a 10% chance of getting to a phone interview with the recruiter and then about a 30% chance of getting an interview with the hiring decision-maker.  The cumulative probability that any candidate will make it to an in-person interview in a hospital is around 3% or less.  Everything being equal (which is never the case), your probability of being selected after an in-person interview is about 20% to 30% making your overall probability of being hired in any particular search at around 1% or less.  The question is, what do you need to do to raise your game to come across as a better alternative than 99% of the competitors you will be up against in your next search?  There are at least four candidate controllable areas that could make the difference the next time you decide to pursue an opportunity inside or outside your current situation.

Qualification for the job

While it should be rote to assume that a candidate in a search is appropriately qualified, that is often not the case.  If you are not qualified and you know it, save yourself and the recruiter some time, don’t waste it by applying for a job you cannot win.  Qualifications include education, experience, relevance to the situation and credentialing.  It is too late to start working on any of these requirements when you become aware of an opportunity.  In other words, if you desire career advancement, start preparing yourself NOW.  If you wait until opportunities present themselves, you are late before the process even begins.

Resume or CV

Your resume is arguably the essential tool needed to get a job.  Your resume is you and speaks for you in those critical first seconds when the appeal of your CV or lack thereof gets you ruled in or out of the first round of consideration.  I have read sources that say that you are lucky if your CV spends thirty seconds in front of a reader before a decision occurs as to whether or not the candidate moves forward.  I have been in this situation when a net is cast, and before you know it, there are hundreds of CVs to review for a position.  After the first twenty or so, the review process speeds up dramatically.  Developing a winning resume is beyond the scope of this article, but you should not underestimate the power of your CV to move you forward or get you eliminated from a search – long before you ever have a chance to speak for yourself.

Contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these articles, leadership, transitions or interim services.  I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you.  An observation from my experience is that we need better leadership at every level in organizations.  Some of my feedback is coming from people that are demonstrating an interest in advancing their careers, and I am writing content to address those inquiries..

If you would like to discuss any of this content, provide private feedback or ask questions, you can reach me at


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