First of all, what does a buyer’s market look like?
Here are 3 recent examples of what many of my clients are facing when applying for jobs:
- GM Finance – mid sized financial services company – 173 applications
- CEO – second tier niche biochemical company – 200+ applications, including many from Europe
- Executive Director – international but small NFP – over 700 hits on the advertisement, not sure how many sent in an application, but assume one third actually applied.
- Executives earning 200K+ used to take 6-9 months to land their next role. This is now more like 8-10 months, or even longer. Not to say you can’t land a role much faster but this pattern is common at the moment.
- A lot of noise and competition to cut through to even make it to the first round interview for a role for which you may be very well qualified.
A buyer’s market – 4 actions you can take to give yourself a better chance
- Define your “edge”
- Develop an integrated professional brand
- Build and leverage your networks
- Be a problem solver
May sound simple and obvious but many executive job seekers do not do these 3 things very well. We’ll take them one at a time.
1. Define your “edge”
Do you currently have a personal value proposition/branding statement that articulates in 10 – 20 words how you add value to an organisation?
Many resumes do a good job of describing skills, experience, style, industry background etc. This tends to be an “inside looking out” description of what the candidate does well. It usually fails to differentiate the candidate.
How do we fix this?
Think like a marketer and craft 2 lines of text at the start of the Profile section of the resume. Any more than this will be too “fluffy”. Describe your likely contribution from the employer’s (buyer’s) perspective. What are you known for? Make a bold claim that you can substantiate with achievements and references.
If you don’t do this, you will look just like everyone else with a similar background. If you do this well you will dramatically increase your chances of getting the employer’s or recruiter’s attention.
The rest of your information can now follow in context. You may want to have a look at some examples in another post I wrote.
What can you use to put this statement together?
- 360 degree feedback
- Referees’ comments
- Your professional reputation – what do you think your colleagues within the company (and perhaps across your industry) say about your strengths
- Build in a sense of what motivates you deeply
But keep the language fresh and interesting – try to avoid words that are fine in themselves but are now over-used. (see list of overused LinkedIn words)
Be prepared to wrestle with this for a while until you have a strong, bold statement that serves to differentiate you and entice your reader to dig into the rest of the resume to find evidence to back your claim.
2. Build an integrated brand
This post is not about the “how to” of social media. However it is no longer optional. A Bullhorn survey found that in 2012 93% of recruiters used LinkedIn to source candidates, up from 87% a year ago. Twitter is growing as a candidate source as well, now into double figures.
One of the largest best global executive search firms has stopped using a resume database and will use only LinkedIn from now on.
Make sure that your brand positioning is consistent across your resume, your LinkedIn presence, the way you use Twitter and the way you speak about your background and future aspirations in person.
For LinkedIn the headline is crucial. You should be able to create a clear, succinct one that summarises the essence of your brief value proposition.
My own one isn’t perfect by any means. But it used to be very “inside looking out” and didn’t state what outcomes people can expect when working with me.
So I changed it and the number of vies and appearances in searches is steadily increasing – and I am not even looking for a new job at the moment.
On LinkedIn my job title is Executive Career Coach
My headline is simply (Purpose, Value, Strategy) – some important key words that help people find my profile.
The first statement in my profile is in two parts, the most important one first:
What I Do
Coach executives to create a renewed sense of purpose, a sharply articulated value proposition and a strategy for achieving career goals
Help clients to write a powerful resume, cut through to the short-list, handle tough interviews and grow robust networks
3. Build and leverage your networks
Again, this is not a lecture on how to network –I have written about that in other blog posts.
Main point is it is not so much who you know…
….but who knows you
Do whatever you can to create and sustain a professional relationship with a willing advocate who has the power to influence relevant hiring decisions, in every one of your target companies.
This will increase the likelihood that when one of those organisations is experiencing ‘pain’, your name is likely to be mentioned as someone who can take the pain away.
4. Be a problem solver more than a job seeker – especially in the interview
Many job seekers unwittingly take on a subservient mindset, hoping they interview well and with a bit of luck they will get the offer.
This is based largely on the mistaken view that the employer holds the keys to an opportunity and you (job-hunter) sit with a problem (need a job). Bear in mind that the interview would not be happening at all if they didn’t have a need or business problem and didn’t already think that you, yes YOU, might be the person to help them.
Even better if you can go into the interview seeing it more as a business meeting than an interrogation.
Use the interaction to understand their business problem. Find out if it is a problem you can and want to solve. Then pitch relevant aspects of your skills and experience to show how you can take away the problem or deliver the outcomes they need.
- Differentiate yourself by articulating your value proposition from the buyer’s perspective
- Ensure your brand is consistent on paper, on line and in person
- Find or create an advocate in each target company
- Focus on solving problems that your target employers want solved
If you found this helpful please feel free to share.
Further reading – here is an interesting article on how this approach applies to corporate mission statements, especially for Not For Profit organisations. Check it out Kevin Starr’s article on the “8 Word Mission Statement“.
Photo credit: Stand Out from The Crowd Unique Golf Tee Game September 19, 20119 (Photo credit: stevendepolo)