As a candidate looking for a new executive role, it’s incredibly important for you to be able to articulate your key achievements and transferable skills.
Having worked in the recruiting industry for many years and having interviewed and coached thousands of candidates and senior executives through their job search, this is something I’ve seen people do very well. But for whatever reason, I don’t think Australians are natural self-promoters.
I can’t speak about candidates in the American or English markets, but certainly in Australia, people don’t want to blow their own trumpet.
Nevertheless, being able to clearly highlight your key achievements and transferable skills is of paramount importance when taking yourself to the job market. If you don’t do that, the likelihood is you’re not going to get the job that you want. I discuss this in detail on this Arete Executive Podcast episode and below.
Sell the sizzle, not the steak
I’ve had senior executives say to me, “Richard, I’m very comfortable promoting my employer and saying that we are the best at what we do, but, I’m averse to talking about myself.” In a recruitment process, as a candidate, it is your number one opportunity to blow your own trumpet, and it’s absolutely essential for you to do that (see my rant on LinkedIn about being your own best cheerleader for more on this).
To use a well-known sales expression, you need to sell the sizzle, not the steak. If you are not familiar with that expression, it essentially means to sell the detail, not the basics.
For example, if I go down to the local RSL and see steak and chips on the menu for $25, I know that’s all I’m getting. However, if I go to a refined steakhouse, the waiter will tell me about the steak of the day, “This is a Wagyu with a marble score of nine-plus. It was hand-reared by Tibetan Buddhist monks on the east facing side of Mount Kosciuszko. It only drank rainwater and was reared in an environment where it listened to classical music every day,” and so on.
Now I would feel inclined to buy that $85 steak, even though the reality is that it’s probably not much different to the $25 steak from the RSL.
The recruitment process – get more bang for your buck
If you’re a manager and you’ve managed a team of 6 people, that’s the steak. Being able to increase revenue by 57%, to reduce costs by 27%, to vastly improve employee retention or employee satisfaction surveys, or reduce lost time injuries by 27%, these are the things that make you different. That’s the sizzle.
This doesn’t just apply to managers, it applies to any candidate — you have to be able to sell the sizzle. This the essence of your CV and LinkedIn profile.
When a recruiter or an organisation looks at your CV or LinkedIn profile, they want you to, for want of a better term, look sexy. It’s essential that they can clearly identify your achievements so they feel they have to interview you as a result.
The four quadrants of the job market
This is especially important when you’re going for roles which are outside of your same job or industry. In my book, Uncover the Hidden Job Market (which you can get here free), I talk about the four quadrants of the job market: same job, same industry; different jobs, same industry; same job, different industry; and different job, different industry (see diagram below).
Recruiters are only good at putting square pegs in square holes, so if you’re applying for a different job in a different industry, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be considered for the role, unless you’ve got some serious sizzle.
Here’s a specific example. A while ago, we were engaged to recruit the CEO of a Sunshine Coast-based disability-related not-for-profit.
(We offer a particular recruitment solution for 7.5% of package where we run a head hunting process to deliver a shortlist within 20 working days, and then the client closes out the balance of the recruitment process.)
The client had a very specific brief for skills the candidate had to possess in order to be considered. Firstly, “They must come from a C-level role, i.e. CEO, CFO, COO, etc., within a disability not-for-profit.” Secondly, the candidate must have strong knowledge of NDIS ( a government initiative that is changing the way not-for-profits are being funded), and the implications for the business. Thirdly, “We need somebody who has worked on M&A activities within the disability not-for-profit sector who can deal with this post-NDIS.” Fourthly, “We know that we need to innovate in order to be successful, so this person must have delivered innovation again, within our sector.” And lastly, “ They have to be happy to live on the Sunshine Coast.”
We went to the market and ran our headhunting campaign. Fifteen days later, we delivered them 9 candidates who all met the brief, some obviously better than others.
A month later, I rang the chair to ask how the recruiting went. The company ended up hiring a general manager of a hospitality-related business on the Sunshine Coast. That person, other than living on the Sunshine Coast, did not meet that brief at all. Yet, they were successful in getting the job.
How did they get the job? Because they knew a couple of people on the board, and they were able to clearly articulate their key achievements and transferable skills. As a result, the board chose to take a risk and employ this person.
If he had applied for the role through our process, he would not have even received a phone call. Not because he’s not a good candidate, but because he was not a square peg for a square hole.
The key point to take from this is that the candidate was able to clearly sell himself and his attributes so that when compared with people who were square pegs for square holes, he was still the preferred candidate.
By the way, when I recently spoke with the placed CEO and the Chair, after about 12 months in the role, he was doing a great job, achieving excellent results and was a fantastic hire for the organisation.
Frame your CV with your STAR achievements
When marketing yourself, think about your more recent roles and things you achieved. Frame these achievements as S-T-A-R stories: situation, task, action, result. What was the situation you faced? What was the task that you were responsible for undertaking? What were your actions? And what was the result?
Instead of just saying, “I delivered a successful project on time, on budget and to the client’s satisfaction,” flesh it out by following the STAR template. If you use that as a guide it’ll be much easier to sell yourself for roles on your CV and LinkedIn profile as well as in interviews.
You can read more on this in my book, Uncover the Hidden Job Market. I hope this encourages you to go out with a lot more confidence to present yourselves for opportunities and to be successful in advancing your career.