5 Strategies to be your own Executive Career Sleuth

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5 Strategies to be your own Executive Career Sleuth

Middle-aged man looks into the camera while holding a magnifying glass up to his eye. Square shot. Isolated on white.

So you have seen a position advertised or heard about a career move that sounds interesting; your transferable skills, talents, strengths and experience match the organisation’s selection criteria; but you would definitely like to know more about the position, the organisation and its culture.

Employers seeking executives and high end professionals want to see that a potential candidate has demonstrated initiative by finding out about the company prior to the first meeting. This also gives you the advantage to ask insightful questions that relate not only to the position but to the company as well.

Whether you have a lot of time to research the company or a little, it definitely pays to dedicate some time to this process.

Here are five proactive strategies and tips to aid your due diligence in researching your potential employer of choice prior to the interview. Do this and you will really stand out in your interview. Be your own Executive Career Sleuth!

 

  1. The organisation’s website

This should be your starting point. Spend time going through each tab on the organisation’s website. Find out who its key people are; the organisation’s target markets; the purpose, vision, missions, values and goals of the organisation. If published, read the company’s annual report and certainly any media statements.

Scroll through the company’s social media platforms to find out what people are saying about the company and what it says about itself.

The company’s annual report is a good indication of the financial health of the organisation. If the company is a publicly listed company check out the Australian Stock Exchange website. How are the shares in the company performing?

 

  1. Google Search

Closely aligned to the organisation’s website see what other sites make reference to the organisation. Have either the organisation or any of its key people been mentioned in the media? Are there any published speeches delivered by a company executive? Look for key names and organisations associated with the organisation.

It could be that someone you or your network colleagues know sits on the Board of the organisation you are researching and you can find out more about it from that person.

A Google search will also identify any negative reports about the organisation. Read these as well. It will help you to decide if the company is really a place where you would like to work.

Below are sights to look for information about the organisation. Note that some provide useful information before requesting payment.

 

  1. LinkedIn

Once you have established who the key people in the organisation are, look them up on LinkedIn. See if anyone you know is connected to that person. A LinkedIn search will also identify other employees of that organisation. Find out what roles they hold.

Do they know anyone that you do?

What roles have they held previously and with which organisations?

Do you know anyone from their previous employment?

Compile as much information as possible. It will help you understand the role and company before you get to the interview.

 

  1. Family, Friends, Colleagues

Don’t underestimate the power of your networks. You just never know who and what they may know. If you know anyone who currently works at the organisation you are applying to, call them and ask about the company. Do they like working there? What is the culture like? Depending on your relationship with them they may be willing to introduce you to the hiring manager.

And how about your referees? Do they know anything about the organisation?

 

  1. Customers, Suppliers, Competitors

Another tip is to seek out who the organisation’s customers are? This information is often available on the company’s website. Once again, do you know anyone in these companies who can give you information about the organisation that you are applying to?

Check to see who the organisation’s suppliers are. Is there anyone from this list you know? Are they willing to give you information about the organisation? You might find out if the organisation is reliable in paying its creditors. Suppliers will often let you know the organisation’s reputation in the marketplace.

Once you know the industry you will be able to surmise who is in direct competition with the organisation. This could help you in presenting a strategy that would put the organisation ahead of its competition.

Armed with all this detailed information, you can obtain a useful snapshot about the company’s market share, growth, who’s who, management style, history, financials, products and services, culture and values, strategy, employee relations, degree of security and degree of autonomy.

The bottom line is that while preparing for an interview uncover as much information as possible about the organisation so that you can better target your questions and answers in the interview.

Not everything will be able to be uncovered in a company search however you will be well on your way to being better prepared and confident during the interview.

To find out more visit http://executivecareermove.com.au/

 

Dr Edward Gifford
Ph.D.

Master of Education (M.Ed.)
Master of Arts (M.A.)
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
Diploma in Education (Dip.Ed.)
Diploma of Management
Cert. IV Training and Assessment
Cert. IV Coaching for Life and Business
Advanced Certification in ACT

 

About the Author

Edward is a professionally trained coach specialising in executive, leadership and careers coaching, as well as workplace and personal coaching. He is also a business adviser and mentor. Edward’s consulting services focus on leadership development, career transition, strategic thinking, team building, workplace engagement and work-life integration. He is a business skills mentor and coach for Queensland Government. Edward has been coaching full time since 2001 and has over 3000 hours of personal, executive, careers and workplace coaching experience. Edward has also developed a comprehensive and very successful outplacement and career transition program for executives and senior professionals.

10 Strategies to Help You Prepare for Your Interview

interview preparation

Preparation is the Key for Your Interview Success
The old saying ‘knowledge is power’ is extremely apt when it comes to your personal and professional preparation for your job interview. It is surprising that even at the Executive level, candidates fail to prepare or practise for the interview adequately. The interview process is like an iceberg – 90% you can’t physically see as it is the preparation prior to the interview. On the day, your interview makes up only 10% of the process. So, preparation is the key.

Here are 10 tips to ensure you place yourself in the best position when the phone rings and the caller asks, “Would you come in for an interview?”

  1. Understand the purpose and process of the interview

Your resumé or CV is a ‘marketing’ and ‘selling’ tool. If it gains you an interview, it has achieved its purpose. Likewise, the interview can be thought of as an opportunity to ‘sell’ to your prospective employer the benefits you can bring to the organisation.

As in any good sales process, you should first seek to understand the ‘needs’ of the employer. Then you ‘sell’ your achievements and benefits in a way that targets the needs and requirements of the position.

Employers will not ‘buy’ you on your features alone (strengths, skills, knowledge and experience), as impressive as these might be. As in any ‘sale’, they want to know what’s in it for them. It is essential to ‘sell’ the benefits that you bring. How is hiring you going to solve the need that the employer has?

Your achievement statements developed for your resumé are central to this ‘sales’ process. Having the right mindset is essential in positioning and preparing yourself for the interview. And just remember, 80% – 90% of your interview has taken place even before you have it!

  1. Understand the recruitment, screening and selection process

As part of your preparation, you will need to understand clearly the recruitment and selection process for the position you are applying for.

At an executive level, organisations will generally choose to use the services of a recruitment agent to screen and put forward suitable applicants for interviewing. (Refer to my blog on How to build a win-win relationship with your recruiter)

Essentially your interview begins at this stage, whether it is via a phone conversation, an email or a subsequent face-to-face meeting, should you pass the initial recruitment screening process.

Assuming the outcome of your meeting with the recruiter is positive, an appointment will be arranged for you to meet with the employer/board for an interview.

So, begin with the end in mind. Treat the recruiter respectfully and act professionally in all encounters, imagining the recruiter to be as important as the employer. The recruiter is the gatekeeper to the interview.

Like any relationship, you need to identify which recruiters are the right match for you – ones who are the most helpful and with whom you can build good rapport.

Also understand that the recruiter’s role is not to find you a job or position but to establish whether or not you are suitable for their client. The recruiter will not look to secure a position for you. They are being paid to fill a gap in the organisation so their responsibility is to the organisation, not to you.

  1. Research the company and purpose and process of the interview

In preparation for the interview it is essential that you know and understand the company and the position you are applying for.

Some advertised executive positions lack detail. If that’s the case, go to the company’s career section on its website. And better still, if you know someone at the company or know someone who knows someone at the company, call and ask more about the company. The bottom line is that while preparing for an interview, uncover as much information as possible regarding the expectations and criteria of the role and the qualifications required. This will enable you to target your statements about your strengths, skills and achievement to those criteria.

  1. Understand the position

You must know what the employer wants. This seems almost self-explanatory and goes without saying. But doing your homework here is essential. What does the position entail? Where does it sit within the organisational structure of the company? Do you meet the essential criteria that the employer is looking for? Read and re-read the position description. Show the job to a trusted friend or mentor and ask them to give you their honest opinion on your ability to fill the position. (There’s nothing worse than wasting the time of hiring managers, recruiters, employers and your time applying for a position for which you are not suited).

  1. Know your resumé/CV

Being prepared for your interview also means that you are able to speak fluently and confidently about any aspect of your CV or resumé. Does your resumé present you in the best light for the job you have applied for?

  • Practise memorising the four or five key strengths and skills recorded in your resumé and demonstrating these on the basis of your achievements.
  • Ensure you can speak fluently about your achievements through stories that match the criteria in the job application (memorise these stories if possible).
  • Use language that puts you in control. Avoid phrases such as “I think …” or “This might be a good example of …” or “Perhaps …” because they suggest uncertainty and invite analysis or speculation. 
  1. Identify non-verbal behaviour that helps or hinders effective communication in the interview process

How you use body language, or non-verbal communication, will impact on the interview. Negative body language can weaken your message and communication as well as distract from what you are trying to convey. It is true that generalisations are being made in interpreting non-verbal communication cues. However, the meanings ascribed to the ones below are commonly accepted.

  • Poor eye contact may convey evasion, indifference, insecurity, passivity, or nervousness
  • Head scratching may indicate uncertainty or bewilderment
  • Lip biting could indicate nervousness, fearfulness or anxiety
  • Foot tapping often conveys nervousness or impatience
  • Folded arms typically convey anger, disagreement, defensiveness or disapproval
  • Raised eyebrows generally indicate disbelief or surprise
  • Narrowing eyes may convey anger or resentment
  • Shifting in your seat usually suggests restlessness, boredom or apprehension.

So being aware of these non-verbal behaviours is helpful. As part of your interview preparation, role play interviews for a specific position with a friend or careers coach for the explicit purpose of concentrating on non-verbal behaviours that may positively or negatively impact your interview on the day.

  1. Interview formats

Knowing about the types of interviews that might be used is also useful in your preparation. From most common to less, the 7 interview formats you are likely to encounter are:

  • One-on-one interview
  • Panel Interview
  • Telephone Interview
  • Electronic interview
  • Group interview
  • Stress Interview
  • Dining interview

Make sure you know what type of interview you will be expected to participate in and research these. Download our Free Report for further information

  1. Anticipate and practise typical questions asked in interviews

You will be much more confident at your interview if you can anticipate, think through and practise your responses to possible questions. Many of these questions will be around the key skills, responsibilities and roles outlined in the advertisement.

Basically, the interviewer(s) will focus questions to seek information on four broad areas:

  1. Can you do the job or fulfil the role? (skills, knowledge, strengths, experience, achievements, benefits to the employer, learning potential and so on)
  2. Do you really want this position? Or Will you do the job? (interest in the industry, organisation, position; work ethic; energy level and enthusiasm; outside variables that may affect your willingness and availability)
  3. Do you fit in? (likeability, ‘chemistry’, communication, alignment with the company’s purpose, vision and values, work and management style, dress and appearance)
  4. How much will you cost?
  1. Identify questions to ask in the interview

Have questions prepared to ask the interviewer or the panel. This will ensure that you learn more about the company and the role. It will also demonstrate that you have done your due diligence and will highlight the areas that are important to you.

The types of questions you ask are very important. Centre these around the company and the role and expectations rather than around salary, personal benefits, hours of work, overtime, overall package and so on. These are best negotiated once you have a firm offer.

  1. Use role play and other practice strategies

Ask a trusted friend, mentor, executive career coach to take on the role of the interviewer and ask you questions that are likely to come up in an interview. This will help you to tell your story, be prepared for the real thing and overcome any nervousness, anxiety or fear,

You can even practice speaking into a recorder, in front of a mirror, or to your dog!

So when you next receive the call for an interview, remember the iceberg metaphor. At least 80% of your interview success is “hidden” but your prior preparation will show up on the day.

To find out more visit http://executivecareermove.com.au/

Dr Edward Gifford

Ph.D.
Master of Education (M.Ed.)
Master of Arts (M.A.)
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
Diploma in Education (Dip.Ed.)

Diploma of Management
Cert. IV Training and Assessment
Cert. IV Coaching for Life and Business
Advanced certification in ACT

 

About the Author

Edward is a professionally trained coach specialising in executive, leadership and careers coaching, as well as workplace and personal coaching. He is also a business adviser and mentor. Edward’s consulting services focus on leadership coaching, executive career transition and management, strategic thinking, team building, workplace engagement and work-life integration. He is an approved business skills mentor and coach for Queensland Government. Edward has been coaching full time since 2001 and has over 3000 hours of personal, executive, careers and workplace coaching experience. Edward has also developed a comprehensive and very successful outplacement and career transition program for executives and senior professionals.

How to build a Win-Win Relationship with your Recruiter

recruiter relationship

When you are seeking your first professional position or a senior career move, you want as many people on your side as possible and that includes recruiters. So how do you build a win-win relationship with a recruiter?

I know that many professional job seekers have had mixed experiences when working with recruiters. With my own clients or candidates, I stress that recruiters are an invaluable resource in the process of searching for their next career position and that they have excellent contacts throughout a variety of industries. Recruiters generally know hundreds of different roles and job types and have numerous resources that can assist you to find your position of choice.

With the executive and senior professional job search process, recruiters usually provide a key role.

In this blog, I offer 12 strategies and tips to build a win-win relationship with your recruiter. If you want to ensure that you are in front of your employer of choice each time you make a career move, then it’s important that you build a strong and sustainable relationship with recruiters.

Essentially your interview begins when you first have contact with the recruiter, whether it is via a phone conversation, an email or a subsequent face-to-face meeting – (should you pass the initial recruitment screening process).

Assuming the outcome of your meeting with the recruiter is positive, an appointment will be arranged for you to meet with the employer or panel for an interview.

So begin with the end in mind. Treat the recruiter respectfully and act professionally in all encounters, imagining the recruiter to be as important as the employer. The recruiter is the gatekeeper of the interview.

Like any relationship, you need to identify which recruiters are the right match for you – ones who are the most helpful and who you can build good rapport with.

Also understand that the recruiter’s role is not to find you a job or position but to establish whether or not you are suitable for their client.

The recruiter will not look to secure a position for you. They are being paid to fill a gap in the organisation so their responsibility is to the organisation, not to you.

12 Key tips in dealing and meeting with recruiters

  • Establish a connection before sending your resumé. Always call the recruitment consultant before making an application (just to clarify a few key points and definitely not to ask about the position as you already should have read this thoroughly).You are then in a more informed position to send through your resumé and you have already commenced building the relationship. This is so much better than just sending in your resumé without establishing a connection.
  • Don’t try to get a meeting at this stage but when you send in your resumé refer back to the phone conversation you had with them. Address the letter to the recruiter by name with correct spelling and never “To Whom It May Concern”. If you do, that will be the end of the process!
  • Be sure your resumé clearly articulates your key achievements (Refer to our resumé book http://executivecareermove.com.au/services/resumes-that-work/) and that it’s tailored to the position you are seeking. To do this you will need to prioritise and target your achievement statements (or accomplishments) to the employer’s requirements. Look for the key words (must haves) in the advertisement and make sure you use these in your application.
  • Avoid clichés and unsubstantiated claims. Both recruiters and hiring managers get really turned off when they read words like “outstanding”, “results orientated”, “driven”, “dynamic”, “thought leader” and so on without any “proof”. The rule is to “show” rather than “tell”.
  • Remember that recruiters are usually very busy and that your application will be one of a large number. They usually spend 6-10 seconds to determine if they want to keep reading. So, in a competitive job market, they will be looking for reasons to put you in the “no” pile rather than include you in the “yes will look again” pile. You have to make your resumé a WOW so it will stand out from the rest (of the hundreds of others they may have to read).
  • Once you have submitted your resumé to the recruiter, follow up with a phone call a few days later making reference to your previous call, checking that your application was received and asking when they expect to short list for interviews. The key in all of this is to be professional and proactive without being pushy.
  • If you do all of this correctly, you put yourself in a stronger position to receive preferential treatment but it’s certainly not guaranteed.
  • If after all of this you get a ‘thanks but no thanks’ response from the recruiter, follow-up and seek some advice and feedback on what you could do better for future applications. You may even seek another meeting. You never know what position might be coming up next.
  • What you are looking to do in all of this is to create an ongoing relationship with recruiters who are the right match for you. Just as it takes 11-13 touches to gain a sale with a prospect in business, so too you need to look for lots of opportunities and ways of creating “touches” with your recruiters of choice to gain a “sale” for your position of choice.
  • Just a few final tips – when you meet with the recruiter, make sure you can clearly articulate your value proposition including your transferable skills and key achievements. Ensure that you know your career or position objective and have written this as a SMART goal for yourself. Be clear about the type of position you are looking for, the industry and organisation you are interested in and the type of remuneration you are expecting.
  • Remember that the recruiter is primarily a sales person so you need to ensure your relationship is built on professionalism and trust just like any other sales relationship.
  • Recruiters are human too. They want to be treated with courtesy and respect. Be polite in all your dealings and make it a pleasure for the recruiter to do business with you. If you do that, they will remember you and not hesitate to recommend you for future positions.

To find out more visit http://executivecareermove.com.au/

Dr Edward Gifford

Ph.D.
Master of Education (M.Ed.)
Master of Arts (M.A.)
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
Diploma in Education (Dip.Ed.)

Diploma of Management
Cert. IV Training and Assessment
Cert. IV Coaching for Life and Business
Advanced Certification in ACT

 

About the Author

Edward is a professionally trained coach specialising in executive, leadership and careers coaching, as well as workplace and personal coaching. He is also a business adviser and mentor. Edward’s consulting services focus on leadership development, career transition, strategic thinking, team building, workplace engagement and work-life integration. He is a business skills mentor and coach for Queensland Government. Edward has been coaching full time since 2001 and has over 3000 hours of personal, executive, careers and workplace coaching experience. Edward has also developed a comprehensive and very successful outplacement and career transition program for executives and senior professionals.

ACTivating your Career

We all have ‘off’ days in our work situation. That is not unusual. Sometimes the stress, pressure, interactions and duties we have to perform seem to feel like we are walking around with a brick on our heads. However, what if the ‘off’ days suddenly seem to number more than they should? What if every day seems to be an ‘off’ day? You do not just feel as if you are walking around with a brick on your head, but also that you are trapped!

Recently I was talking to a school principal who wistfully commented that he felt he should get out of the job he was doing because it was no longer meaningful work for him. His age, natural caution and his financial situation were telling him it was impossible and just to get on with the job.

How can we handle a situation like this, where it might, for various reasons, seem like career suicide to make a change?

One strategy that is worth considering is called ACT (pronounced as a word, not a series of letters). It stands for Acceptance and Commitment Training (or Therapy) depending on the professional context in which it is being used.

The aim of ACT is to create a full, rich and meaningful life while accepting the pain that inevitably comes with it.

Most of us are willing to go with the first half of the definition but we have reservations about the second. Our society has ‘conditioned’ us to certain expectations about happiness which are mythical and unrealistic. Some might be centred on the idea that our job should always be meaningful and worthwhile and we should always be happy doing it. If not, there is something wrong with us… Sadly, there is something wrong with an awful lot of us, as 70% of Australians report wanting to change their jobs. Many of those reasons may involve not being happy in their jobs.

What is there to say they will be happy in their next one, or the one after? Nothing! At the very least, constantly changing jobs is expensive and exhausting to all concerned at both the employee and employer level.

What perspective does ACT offer? ACT works at increasing the psychological flexibility or resilience of individuals through six core processes. It aims to help them to:

  • Connect with the present moment or the here and now.
  • Watch their thinking- a process which is called ‘Defusion’
  • Open up and make room for pain or discomfort – a process called Acceptance
  • Notice that part of themselves – the observing self- that is aware of what they are thinking, doing, feeling or sensing at any moment
  • Identify what is really important to them – their values
  • Do what is really important to them (whatever it takes) in alignment with valued living.

This might sound really complicated but engaging in these processes really does work. I first came across ACT through a friend telling me about a workshop he had attended run by Dr Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap. (Check out his material at www.actmindfully.com ) After coaching from other methodologies, I was really excited at the way this framework seemed to deal with some things that had been bothering me in other approaches.

Let us return to our disenchanted school principal to see how an ACT coaching intervention helped him deal with his circumstances.

The scenario is as follows. Bill is a 55 year old principal of a large city primary school in Queensland. He would like to get out of his job but does not consider himself qualified in any other area but education. His financial circumstances are such that he cannot take early retirement or a redundancy. He still has dependants to consider and his wife has recently left him after a marriage of 30 years. In addition, his Share Portfolio has taken a battering through the GFC. He generally enjoys good health and is physically fit, thanks to his regime of swimming laps three times per week. He reports feeling powerless and stuck in a career that he once really enjoyed.

So, at an age when he could possibly be looking forward to retirement, Bill cannot even consider it. His employability (despite ‘age discrimination’ laws) might well be restricted, although he is well qualified with many years of experience as both a teacher and a principal. His marriage is over but his commitments and responsibilities are not. Life has suddenly presented him with a set of circumstances he did not ask for, want or expect. Not surprisingly, he does not like the situation he finds himself in and a feeling of hopelessness has crept into his thinking. He is not alone!

Bill happens to be a school principal, but really any professionals could benefit from using the ACT process in addressing various life issues. In ACT, the assumption is that clients are stuck rather than broken and in the course of a few sessions, through developing psychological flexibility, they can learn to move their life in a valued direction even if all circumstances are not ideal.

Having taken Bill’s case history, what next? He clearly has lots of areas in which he wants change and to work at all of them at once is overwhelming and not feasible. He chose to work in the area of career where he felt most frustrated and helpless.

Bill was encouraged to talk about what attracted him to teaching in the first place and as he spoke, his eyes began to light up and energy returned to his voice. It was not long before some of the values that underpinned his original career became evident. He loved being inspired, active mentally stimulated, and making a difference in the lives of children. Being frozen, bored, helpless and drowning in administrative requirements had moved him away from his strengths, interests and passion. His attention was drawn to the facial animation he suddenly demonstrated and he smiled!

Working from the area of Values, over the next few sessions, Bill found ways of accommodating them despite his circumstances. His motivation to do what mattered to him became very important and he realised that if he waited until all circumstances were ideal, he might be waiting for ever, and life would pass him by. He was able, over time, to deal with his negative thoughts and acknowledge them as being there without them dictating the agenda and sapping him of energy and vitality.

He was able to notice his thinking and learned to name the stories his mind was telling him- like you’re a failureyou’re past it… why bother?.. and so on. The stories kept reappearing or changing, but because he knew they were just a passing parade of thoughts in his mind, without real power, he allowed them to be there in the background whilst continuing to do something significant in the direction of what he really valued in his career.

When, as is normal for all of us, he found himself in a panic or his tension levels began to rise, he noticed it and used some of the mindful breathing techniques he had learnt, to bring himself back to the present moment.

By identifying his values and then moving in a committed way to putting them into action, Bill found meaning in a career that he thought held nothing for him. The values he initially identified, those of being inspired, being mentally stimulated, being active and making a difference in the lives of children were translated into actions that he could do rather than just ideas he could think about. That really appealed to him.

For instance, just one thing he did was to start a discussion forum with a group of principals about innovative educational ideas. Whilst many of these were over the internet in list serve style, once a month a speaker with expertise in one of the areas of interest to the principals was organised to talk to the group over a social event after school. This lead to changes in programs, new ideas being tried out, interested young teachers being mentored and a vibrancy and vitality in the school that became commented on in the local community. For Bill, a small change he had acted upon had a ripple effect which really made a difference – thus enacting another of his values.

Bill went from tolerating his career to ACTivating it and it showed! In two months he is going to be the speaker at the group he founded telling people how it all had happened and how ACT has worked in helping him to create a full, rich and meaningful life for himself despite all the disasters threatening to engulf him.

Angela Gifford