Jake wowed me. As an executive recruiter with years of experience, I’m not easily impressed. But everything pointed to him as the one. He did everything right to get himself hired.
I was engaged to recruit a new Executive Vice President. When I search for executive level individuals, my success in finding candidates comes from networking. And that’s how I found Jake. Yes, I placed ads, but individuals not looking for a job never see them and passive candidates are often the best.
So let me tell you about Jake, how he positioned himself as the perfect candidate, and what everyone looking for a job can learn from him.
To begin, Jake never applied for the job. He didn’t know the position was open and frankly, I didn’t even know Jake existed. But others did. As I networked, individual after individual recommended I contact him. He was considered a rising star among managers in his industry. I knew I had to meet him. And, when I finally found him, I had to convince him to apply and sell him on the job. Jake, simply by developing a reputation as a mover and shaker, had taken control of the recruitment process. It’s a bit counter-intuitive to understand, but his strength was that he didn’t apply for the job, that he was doing an outstanding job in his current position, which made him ideal for a new job that he never sought. As the executive recruiter, I had to convince him to even listen…and he did. But I had to convince Jake, not the other way around. He was in control and that’s critical in a job search.
It gets better and from the perspective of the recruiter who only wants to present solid candidates to the client, Jake continued to do everything right. When I Googled his name, there were countless articles about him and the work he had done. No tarnish here. His resume highlighted accomplishments, not task performed. But, it did reveal one red flag. There was a two year unexplained gap in his employment—never a good sign. I asked him about it and was taken back by his response. He was wounded in Iraq, came home with a disability, and recognized he needed time off to get well. He used that time to rehabilitate, think about what was important in his life and return to school. He took a potential negative from an employment perspective, maybe a knockout of his candidacy, and turned it into a plus.
Jake interviewed well, was prepared and asked probing, insightful questions. He did his homework on the company, the current management team and even me. He visited the company and researched their plans. And he did this without ever being asked to do so. He was a model candidate.
So what can others learn from Jake that they can apply to their job search? Here are seven differentiators:
- Develop a presence: Join professional associations, get involved, network amongst other professionals, and get known. Best-kept secrets don’t get great jobs.
- Google yourself: Make sure what’s out there is positive and that includes all social media. You can shape your image or harm it, as there are no secrets online.
- Do your homework: Learn everything you can about the company, its people and its culture and in particular, the individuals who will be interviewing you. Knowledge is power.
- Develop a killer resume and online presence: Resumes should highlight accomplishments and success. But remember, recruiters often check you out first online. LinkedIn is their go-to place for professionals.
- Interview with confidence: Learn how to interview and practice, practice, practice. Be conversational, interesting, and show energy. Be concise in your responses and never, ever, drone on.
- Take control: Never leave an interview without asking the next steps in the process and follow-up with a thank-you note. If you don’t hear back at the agreed upon time, call. And please no email follow-ups. Remember, you’re developing a relationship, not a pen pal.
- Ask for the job: Be clear to the interviewer you want the job and show they’d be making a mistake by not hiring you. Never leave a question in interviewer’s mind whether you want the job or not. You’re not dealing with a mind reader.
Positioning yourself for success and that perfect job requires a lot of up front work. Jake’s focus was on growing his career, not his next job. It was that emphasis that positioned him for it. And rather than have to look for a job, a job found him.