Elite Resumes has been providing successful executive resume writing and job search coaching since 1993. Martin Buckland, Principal of Elite Resumes, is one of North America’s leading authorities on highly effective executive resume writing, high impact cover letters, successful job-search strategies, executive coaching, personal branding, interview tutoring and social media career strategies.
While at an IT networking event, one of my team members was given a chance to watch a series of first impressions happening all around her. A young man caught her eye, and she watched as he made an impact everywhere he moved through the event. He had prepared well for the opportunity, but fell slightly short on nearly every criterion on my lists for making a great first impression. There was one perfect element that made him stand out, and held the attention of every hiring influencer in the room. Can you guess what it was?
Well dressed. Yes, his suit was pressed, his tie matched his socks, and his shoes were shined. That was true of a sea of young professionals there to make connections. Like many his age, though, his cell phone was ever-present in his hand.
Carriage. Standing straight, making eye contact, the young man’s body language was clearly engaged. His nervous habit of rubbing the top of his head when thinking quickly was not on the lists, but it didn’t detract from his overall message of confidence and competence.
Handshake. When shaking hands, it was clear this young man had practiced, his grip was startlingly firm, the shake brief, and the eye contact steady. The hard grip merely emphasized his enthusiasm to meet everyone.
Introduction. Caught up in conversation, the young professional would often forget to give his excellent elevator pitch to introduce himself until midway through a chat.
Generosity. Did you guess? The gentleman was genuinely pleased to meet everyone at the event, offered ideas and information freely, and added value to every conversation he joined. He spoke highly of past and present employers, and showed interest and engagement when it was his turn to listen.
Every senior professional and hiring influencer in the room took notice of this young programmer, knew what skills he possessed, and had made a mental note of the job he was seeking. He wasn’t necessarily the most talented person in the room, but he stood out because he was generous with his time, attention, and knowledge. All of them agreed they would enjoy working with him. That, by definition, is a stellar first impression!
Interviews allow hiring influencers to decide if you’ll be a good fit for the open position, and for the organization. They’re a high-stakes marketing presentation selling YOU. So, you can have all the right skills, the best education, and great experience, but a poor presentation can distract from and even diminish the perceived value of the product!
Dress for success. Even if you’re interviewing at a casual IT workplace, wear a suit and arrive well-groomed. Time and again I’ve heard hiring influencers equate the desire for the positon to how formally the candidate dressed. Show respect and interest by dressing and grooming yourself conservatively, and with care. We’ve all encountered candidates who dressed down and that choice was perceived as either indifference or over-confidence.
Introduce yourself. Have an elevator pitch prepared, and learn how to give a brief, firm handshake. After your dress and grooming, introductions are your second chance to make a great impression!
Project confidence. Sit up, stand straight with shoulders back, make eye contact, and keep your posture upright and open. Keep your hands visible without fidgeting. This body language says you know your worth, and it’s considerable!
Slow down. Anxiety produces adrenalin. Adrenalin is the fight-or-flight hormone that gives you speed and power to either run from the bear or kill it! It’s useful in the wild, or during a mugging, but it can sink your interview if you let it. Keep your speech, walk, and gestures slow and smooth. Pace your answers, even if your thoughts are racing. This helps you look calm, confident, and makes your answers sound thoughtful.
Practice. Are there parts of this list that are difficult for you? Making eye contact feels artificial, or perhaps you’re used to slouching to read your phone screen? Elevator pitches are intimidating for many candidates, and so is a simple handshake. Practice with friends, your spouse, or even at networking events. Repetition in a lower-stress environment breeds familiarity and builds muscle memory, so that many of these things can become second nature even during interviewing.
A job search is stressful for anyone, but introverts can feel exhausted and overwhelmed at the prospect of interviews, networking, and subtle pressure to ignore their very nature and be outgoing and extroverted for even short periods of time. The very best advice for introverts on the hunt for the next job or the next step up on their career ladder is to be prepared, be practiced, and be true to your nature.
Update your resume, business cards, and social media. Make sure they match with exactly the same dates and job titles, skills, and education. Have your interview suit or dress cleaned and be sure it fits. Polish your personal branding, make sure you’re using a professional head shot or at least a photo where you look professional on your social media and website. Let your network know you’re looking for your next job. All of this preparation looks great to hiring influencers, and gives you more confidence in yourself.
Everyone feels a bit nervous going into an interview or new networking event during a job search. Practice your elevator pitch, practice your smile and your handshake, and practice a few behavioural interview questions. This repetition makes it easier to come up with things to say in the heat of the moment, it allows you to focus on your answer instead of your discomfort, and makes it easier to choose the impression you want to leave on hiring influencers. All that practice can feel a little false at first, but you’ll find that it allows you to point out your strengths and emphasize your skills, while turning your introverted nature into a positive.
Be true to your nature.
Seek jobs that play to your strengths. Introverts are often creative problem-solvers, diligent employees, and self-motivated. Avoid jobs that require working with large groups or public speaking if you find those tasks exhausting. Search for the jobs that allow you to work alone, in small groups, or in a quiet environment. While you must network, you can build your connections one-on-one if you are diligent about scheduling time with your contacts and save the big events for when you need to expand your network in a hurry. Highlight skills and experience that are focused in areas in which you’d like to work. You might have excelled at Debate Team in college, but that doesn’t mean that public speaking is a great match today.
Don’t forget to give yourself time to rest and rebound from each interview, network event, or practice session. You’re working hard on your job search, you deserve to have time to yourself!
Managing your career is not your employer’s job, nor your favourite recruiter’s. It’s your job. No one else has the same interest and commitment to your career and future as you do. In addition to social media maintenance, networking, and personal branding, every adult should spend some time every month on plans and goals. Below are 5 tips for career planning which will help you get started if you’re new to being your own manager, and will help you get organized and stay on course if you’re an old hand at it!
Chart immediate goals first.
Plan 2-5 years out in detail and hold yourself accountable for those plans and goals. Adding a few long-term goals is good, but your primary focus should be on the near future. Any further out than 5 years, and circumstances will change as you grow and develop as a leader. Do you feel that you need more education to reach the next level? Start looking into an MBA, executive MBA, or begin studying for certifications or licenses you’ll need to accomplish your goals. Concerned there’s no room for growth in your current job? Get ready for a job search!
As a colleague of mine points out, “Life happens!” Keep in mind that your personal and professional life can change quickly, taking you on a journey that looks quite different from your original plan. Starting a family or the need to care for an aging parent can delay your goals or give you a new perspective. A sideways promotion can offer new skills and experience that help you understand that different goals may be a better fit for you. Stay flexible and agile enough to accept and adapt to change as it happens.
Search your network for those who have already travelled a path you’d like to follow and ask their advice. Seek out people who are highly skilled leaders and learn from them. Then offer your own experience to others. The best leaders are those who enable their team members to reach their full potential and serve those they lead. There’s no better time to begin learning how to accept and offer valuable leadership!
Never stop learning.
Great leaders don’t rest on their laurels. They recognize there is always a mentor to seek at the next level and something to improve in themselves. Those who feel they’ve reached the top and stop pushing themselves, stagnate. A rigid outlook and narrow perspective have tanked more than a few businesses along the way. You’ll never become outdated if you’re still learning, growing, and reaching for what’s next.
From small victories to big wins, take the time to celebrate success in every form. One long, hard push to the top will wear you out before you can reach the first peak, much less the summit! And while you celebrate your personal success, remember to celebrate your employees and your mentors.
An Executive Recruiter is often the first gatekeeper to the position you want and to the organization you want to join. Even if you don’t get the first position the two of you speak about, once you’ve met with an Executive Recruiter and made a positive impression, you become an active player on the field of candidates for a variety of positions this same recruiter is seeking to fill.
Is there a difference in an interview with an Executive Recruiter and interviews with other hiring influencers?
Yes. The recruiter is looking to sell you to their client, the employer. They want to know about your skills, talents, successes, and values so they get a good feel for your fit for the position and the organization. There’s fewer behavioural questions, less interest in hypothetical situations and more focus on what you can do for their client.
You’re also expected to know the client. Do your research and make use of your network connections, online searches, and media such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor to learn as much as you can. Your recruiter can be a great source of insider tips, but only if you’ve proven that you are interested, passionate, and committed to getting this job.
What’s the same about interviewing with an Executive Recruiter and a potential employer?
Look the part: Dress well, sit up straight, maintain eye contact. Talk about former employers with respect and a positive attitude, and avoid getting too detailed. Be prompt, as this is the interview to get the interview! Do follow up with a thank-you email, and send it the same day as the interview. Listen carefully to the cues you are given, and the reactions you elicit: A recruiter wants to wow his client with great candidates, impressing the recruiter will lead to impressing the rest of your hiring influencers at the employer interview!
Summer is one of the best seasons for job-seekers. While common wisdom says that vacations and a slower pace mean a difficult time finding a job, I strongly disagree. The only better time for a job search is the winter holidays! When the vast majority of job seekers are waiting for autumn (or the end of those holidays), there are fewer candidates applying for open positions. This means it’s easier to get noticed and make a great impression. Why lie on the beach with all the other vacationing candidates when you can kick your job search into high gear and grow your career?
Here’s a quick list of what to do this spring to be ready for that summer job search season. If you’re even considering a career move, these are important tasks to finish before you begin sending resumes, calling recruiters, and interviewing!
Prepare your paperwork. While most resumes are now submitted online, you’ll need to update your resume with your most current achievements and make sure it’s readable by ATS software. Prepare personal business cards with your field of expertise and contact information that does not include your current work phone, work email, or company website unless it is your own business. You risk making a bad first impression when you job search using your employer’s email.
Curate your social media. Make sure your LinkedIn profile matches what you have put on your new resume, discrepancies look careless or dishonest. Use a professional (or professional-looking) and current photo for your profile pictures. Remove unprofessional details, concerning photos, and begin a regular schedule of posts relevant to your field of expertise. These can be as simple as recommending links for interesting articles on your industry, or as personal and complex as a discussion or opinion of an issue common to your field. You may want to separate your personal social media from your professional, too.
Prepare for interviews. Practice your elevator pitch for smooth introductions, gather examples for those tricky behavioural interview questions, and consider how to answer questions about why you’re leaving your current position. Know your resume, so you can speak to your job history, too!
Write out your STAR stories. The act of writing these successes into a brief, powerful, and positive narrative of growth and achievement will leave you able to talk about them even on a moment’s notice. It’s great preparation for those unexpected opportunities!
Prepare your network. Ramp up your attendance at networking events, bring your business cards, and remember to add value to those relationships by offering news, advice, and helping others connect with open positions, too. Networking is a two-way street!
The time between jobs is not the right time to take a vacation or start on that “honey-do” list for those home-improvement or decorating projects that you’ve been discussing with your spouse. Toss the honey-do list and work your money-do list! Treat your job search like it’s your new job.
Take a day to work out the emotions of losing a job, then kick your career management and job search into high gear. Submitting your resume to three opportunities a day just isn’t enough, although I see plenty of clients who have followed that old, tired advice. Work smarter, harder, and get better responses from hiring influencers by using a planned, coordinated approach that shows your skills, experience, and expertise in the best possible light.
Afterward, when you have a new position lined up, set your start date with plenty of time for a vacation and that list of DIY tasks!
Hire a professional who can update your resume, format it so that it’s easy for computer software to pick out the key words and phrases, and makes a positive impact on hiring influencers.
Social media. Update your LinkedIn and other social media profiles to reflect your new resume. Remove any negative, risky, or unprofessional posts, tweets, or photos.
Make sure your photo, bio, and profiles are matching in basic content if not identical. Make sure the dates, job titles, descriptions, and key words match. Use a professional headshot so that your image is fresh, current, and professional. Begin a schedule of posts about industry issues, news, and solutions. It’s never too late to brand yourself as an industry expert. Schedule time every week to spend on your personal brand, even after you take a new position.
Suit up. Even if your industry runs to the casual side, such as IT, you’ll want to make sure you have an interview suit that announces your value as an expert and a potential employee.
Pitch perfect. Look at your new resume, your social media, and branding. Think about what you want, and where you want to go with your career. Then put together an elevator pitch that you can use when introducing yourself at interviews and networking events.
What is your dream job, your ideal employer, the next step? Take a good hard look at both your ultimate and close-up goals and make an effort to learn about what you need to do to prepare for them.
Reach out. Get in touch with your favoriterecruiters, your network, and even the colleagues and family members who might be able to offer a hand in getting the position you’re dreaming about. Network every single week, following up on the conversations you’ve had with emails, texts, or phone calls to ensure that your contacts know that you value their help in your job search.
When you see an opportunity, offer something of value to your network connections. It can be information about a job opening, advice about an industry issue, or an article that might offer insight.
Don’t forget that even after you’ve accepted that dream job, to work your money-do list. Not with the same time and dedication, but on a schedule that keeps you from ending up with an outdated resume, tired social media profiles and branding, and dusty elevator pitches. You are the only Career Manager you have, so be a hands-on manager!
We’ve all done it, that pep-talk in the car before you go into an interview. Why not make your car-talk a positive and effective one? Start when you leave the house, get serious about it when you arrive and park, and finish up as you’re walking into the building.
Be prepared. This is a must BEFORE the car talk, as you need to have laid out your clothes, printed your resume, and collected the things you need the night before.
Be early. Talk yourself right out the door and into the car, 30 minutes earlier than you think you need to. That thirty minutes can give you leeway for traffic conditions, time to get lost, and still arrive a bit early…with time for that car talk!
Stay calm. This is your mantra while driving to the interview. You are ready, you are a great candidate, and you will stay cool and collected.
Practice your elevator pitch. At least three times, introduce yourself, checking your smile and relaxed, confident posture in your rear view mirror.
Glance at the job description again. You know what key words you chose that you want to emphasize, and you’re ready to mention them in relation to your skills, experience, and character.
Glance at your resume. You know that you’re an accomplished candidate, these hiring influencers are going to love you.
Run through your answers to common behavioural interview questions. You have a few stories picked out of times you failed or took criticism and how you turned it around to a positive. You have some stories chosen of when your ideas were ignored and what you learned from that, and how you used that new knowledge to go the extra mile next time.
Breathe. It’s time to stop rehearsing, stop practicing. Breathe in for a count of five, hold for five, then release your breath for five. And again. You’ve got this.
Check your rear view mirror. Make sure you look calm and polished. Ready?
Ten minutes before your appointment, walk on in.
Be friendly. Everyone you meet could be asked about your interactions, so start with good manners and a great attitude.
Keep your phone hidden, your posture upright, and your stance open. Hold your resume if you’re feeling fidgety, but not your phone or tablet. You need to be ready to focus on your interviewers as soon as they appear.
Networking can be difficult enough, but directly asking your network contacts for help can be daunting even for extroverts! Here’s a few tips on how to ask your contacts for help, and how to ensure you keep building on these valuable relationships for years (and job searches) to come!
Put your request in the subject line of your email or in the first few words of your post. Don’t make your connections ask what you need, search for your request, or wonder what they can do. Successful people are busy. The easier you make it, the more likely they are to commit to helping you.
Brevity. Don’t be coy, don’t be vague. Say exactly what you’re looking for, and even where you’re looking if that’s relevant. “I’m in search of a Team Lead position in Software Development in the non-profit sector here in the Toronto area.” says exactly what position, what industry, what focus, and the physical location in which you are searching.
Reminders. Add a brief reminder of your experience, skills, and strengths, along with your contact information. If you’re emailing individuals, remind them how you are connected. If you’re posting in a LinkedIn or alumni group or other social media, add links so your contacts can refresh their own memories with a glance at your profiles.
Resume. Add a link or a file with your resume, all ready to forward or embed. Make it easy to help you!
Respond. If a hiring influencer reaches out to you, even if the job isn’t a great fit, respond to them! Someone has made an effort to help you grow your career, so you need to show your appreciation by being responsive to every inquiry your contacts generate.
Reach out. When you receive inquiries through your contacts, let them know their help was effective and appreciated. You may need them again, and everyone likes to be thanked when they’ve made an effort to help a contact.
Reciprocate. When you hear of a job opening, know a contact at an organization, or can otherwise lend a hand to your network contacts, do so! Give more than you get, and others will always be willing to help you out in return.
When the weather gets warmer, the flowers begin to bloom, and the soft breezes blow, many of us open our windows and roll up our sleeves (or call a housecleaning service to roll up their sleeves) to clean away a year’s worth of dust and debris from our homes. Starting a fresh new season and year with a fresh clean home.
This is the perfect time of year to spring clean your social media profiles. It’s been a year or more since you’ve updated, and you’ve accomplished goals and made other changes. There’s no better time to polish your personal branding by freshening up your public information. Here’s a quick list of 5 updates you should make every spring!
New headshot. Choose a new photo of yourself or update the photo you currently use. Some simple cropping to make your face fill most of the photo can make a big difference even when you don’t have a new picture. If you are getting new shots taken, make sure the background is simple and face forward. Before you upload, make sure you label the file with your name and no spaces. This allow search engines to find your photo when someone searches for you.
Update your experience and skills. Add what you’ve accomplished or changed over the last year to your information. Have your goals changed, too? Make sure you update and refresh all the ways you’ve grown. Degrees? Certifications? Honours? Add them!
Make it match. While you’re updating your social media, be sure you’re updating your resume, too. Ensure the titles, dates, and descriptions of your jobs match from platform to platform. Skills lists and experience should also match. You never know when someone will reach out with a great opportunity, so you want to give a full, cohesive picture of what you have accomplished.
Revise summaries and bios. Now that you’ve collected and refreshed all the information about you and your career, make sure your introductions are as highly polished as your skills lists! Update, reframe, and restate!
Who’s who? Take a look at contacts lists and make sure your current colleagues and newer contacts are able to see your social media. When you do this, take some time to think about which of these people you can help. Can you offer an introduction to a great executive recruiter? Do you know of an open position at your last organization that would be a perfect fit for a connection you’ve made? Reach out to them. Part of networking is adding value for others, so they’ll be willing to reach out to you someday!
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