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Going into an interview for a executive role can always be a bit unnerving… what will they ask me? have I done enough prep? will nerves get the better of me? can I really do this? so with all these thoughts in your head the last thing you want is to get hit with a complete googlie! (That’s a cricket term for my transatlantic friends – means one out the blue).

One of my coachees was asked ‘What’s your view on the Syrian Refugee Crisis?’ Neither of us had anticipated that one. In broad terms it had nothing to do with being a CEO of a UK non profit. But in another sense it had everything to do with the role. I can’t tell why the interviewer asked that but if I had to guess I’d say:

  • to test the candidates ability to think on the spot
  • to test the candidate’s ability to deal with the unexpected
  • to see if the candidate was alive to the issues of the day – had an external focus
  • to see whether they had the courage of their convictions and were prepared to offend, sildenafil be controversial or just flannel
  • to see what their values were

All of those things are entirely legitimate things to test.

But how should you handle such an unexpected question?

  • have an opinion! but make it a balanced opinion and have some facts to support it (if you can) consider the issue from a number of standpoints. You can spend your time simply talking about how complex a problem it is
  • be articulate, click just pause before you leap into an answer – its OK to say ‘that’s a toughie’, or ‘there is no easy answer to this’, use that time to think  about your response. Our world is full of complex issues that can’t be dealt with in a slick phrase
  • be values driven and true to yourself, if they want to hire you it should be because you share the same values not because you have blagged your way by saying what you think they want to hear
  • be confident, when you are put on the spot it is all too easy to fall apart, plough on and sound like you know what you are talking about. There’s no right or wrong.. just what you think. So know what it is that you think.

 

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A Wikimania 2010 presenter

A Wikimania 2010 presenter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Presentations in Interview- Can you talk the talk?

 

In my time as a senior recruiter I have sat through no small number of presentations. Many of them left me cold. I wondered if the people giving them really understood the purpose of the exercise i.e. to test in this way is the candidate’s ability to represent and sell an organisation, (and in the process themselves). To test their ability to inspire an audience with confidence. To test  an ability to  persuade and to demonstrate the ability to marshal thoughts and structure something that sounds really impressive. Showcasing. Convincing. Persuading. Getting the message across.  So sitting, as some candidates I have listened to, in front of a flip chart with some very small handwriting, wiggling across a single piece of paper does not really do a great deal to impress. Mumbling in a down beat fashion or shuffling pages of A4 on the desk really does not cut it.

Interestingly I have heard some pretty low quality presentations from some quite influential people. I don’t quite understand that. I was stunned at how poor the man from the World Bank was when I sat through a 30 minute lecture. I don’t think he even realised that we were English, his vocabulary was still addressing a transatlantic audience. (we don’t say effectuate do we?) How is it that people who have climbed to positions of power, expertise and authority just don’t know how to present? I wonder if some of it is that they just don’t really have to. When I think about how people in the workplace actually present ideas, they rarely do so ‘cold’. Usually they have prepared the ground. Often they will have prepared a report, circulated before the meeting. Commonly they will sit in the meeting and assume that the audience has read and understood the report, so their comments will be to ‘speak to a report’ rather than present an idea, persuade people, or demonstrate an ability to enthuse an audience.

I also wonder if few people attend any training on presentations or public speaking. Speaking to an audience is one of the most common phobias there is. Why would you volunteer to go on a course to do something that literally frightens you? Sufferers feel that all eyes are upon them – “the spotlight effect” – their acute self-awareness makes it very difficult for them to focus on what is going on around them, to remember their speech, or to read from notes.  Their mind goes blank or foggy. Their distress is further fuelled by their efforts to hide or mask their discomfort which may become apparent through blushing, facial immobility, sweating, shaking, twitching, or an inability to speak normally or coherently. And in an interview situation where getting the job depends on success it is all much worse.

So what should the candidates have to do when faced with the task…. ‘you have ten minutes to give us a presentation on…’?

  1. An understanding of the audience, what they already know, what language they speak and what they want to hear about. I guess the man from the World Bank had never met a social housing tenant, I think he was an academic. His presentation, although very important, did not set the room alight. Effective presenters know who their audience are and how the message needs to be delivered.
  2. Effective presenters stand and command the room. Presenting is a display activity. Standing indicates confidence and control. It enables a small amount of movement, a little pacing, wider hand gestures; a greater ability to get up close to the audience. Standing enables you to inject more energy into your presentation. If you think of some of the great orators that you have heard, they did not sit behind a desk and mutter.
  3. Clear diction and adequate volume. One of the great bonuses of standing is the way that it will enable you to breathe deeply and speak on the outbreath. This will give your voice depth and volume. (but if you have a microphone you need to be careful not to over project)
  4. Measured delivery, presenters need to relax, speak slowly and use all the techniques of pace and rhythm to ensure that there is clarity and emphasis. Presenters need to recognise the ability of the audience to absorb and give them appropriate time to do so.
  5. Good visual aids, if you have to make your presentation ‘on the day’, and are given a flip chart, tuck a ruler and pencil in your pocket. Make your visual aids, helpful, clean and neat. Use them for the emphasis, they should give not for the narrative. If you are given a topic in advance and are using PowerPoint, use it sensibly, again it is not the narrative it is the emphasis.
  6. Structure, a presentation needs a clear beginning, middle and end. It needs an overview and a conclusion. And keep to time, nothing annoys a panel more and tells them that you have not planned and rehearsed.
  7. Message, if a presentation is testing oral persuasiveness then there needs to be a very clear message or argument with facts and evidence to support it. Ask yourself, what is the thing that I want my audience to walk away remembering? You also need great content. You need content tailored to the audience and answering the questions they want answering.  Speak with conviction, if you don’t believe your message, who else will?
  8. A smile, a sign that you are pleased to be there. Sometimes a touch of humour can help you build rapport with the audience,  but how much you can use this will depend on the situation. But your smile needs to be on the mouth and in your eyes and your eyes need to meet theirs.

 

Yes, I have sat through many hours of very poor presentations and many other hours of very good ones. To be memorable you need, great, relevant content delivered with conviction and style.

English: A flip chart in a conference room. Sv...

English: A flip chart in a conference room. Svenska: Ett blädderblock i ett konferensrum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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So JUST SHUT UP!

Everyone wants to feel confident in an interview. Even if they can’t actually feel confident they want to appear  confident. And one of the ways you can do that is by shutting up!
You’re probably thinking.. ‘but I need to talk, purchase  to tell them my ideas and my experiences.. why would I shut up?’
You need to say your piece and then shut up. One of the things that confident people can do is cope with a bit of silence in a  conversation. Nervous people keep talking and keep repeating themselves and saying the same thing and go on and on and on. If you truly knew that you had given a spectacular answer you would stop, view pause to let the impact sink in, no rx sit back confidently and wait for the next question.
Many coaching clients come to me and tell me that they waffle in interviews and we work on techniques to help them stop the waffle.. so what’s the trick?

  • Be prepared to stop talking and allow a little silence.
  • Check when you have finished that the interviewer has heard enough and you have
    covered all the bases: ‘was that enough? .. does that cover it?’
  • Know exactly what your story is and then when you have said it shut up. If you are well prepared and know what you want to tell them before the interview you will feel more confident to stop talking, you will know that you have said it!
  • Watch the body language of the interviewer, that will help you know when they have heard enough and want to move on. If they start interrupting you.. that’s a dead give away.

It is not a case of ‘less is more’ in the interview, but it is a case of ‘enough is enough’. Just know when to stop!

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I was coaching someone who almost gagged when we got to talking about the ‘what are your strengths?’ question.. they really struggle to say that they are good at anything. In spite of some really significant achievements and accomplishments.  As we unpicked this reticence I discovered a deep fear of being seen as a boast or braggart.

This set me thinking and I did some research into the subject of boasting; why are we so averse to blowing our own trumpet? (or tooting as the Americans call it.. divided by a common language!) There is a strong religious element to this; major religions –Islam, more about Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity all value humility and consider boasting a vice. As the Bible puts it ‘let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’. I think there is an element of social control in the culture of  disapproval of the person who is self congratulatory. Our rulers prefer a bit of submission and self deprecation, those who know their own rights and value may be less submissive. Our parents were often quick to condemn the show off or sing one’s own praises. It is considered impolite to draw too much attention to ourselves, after all ‘children should be seen and not heard’ is still a value instilled into people when they are young.  ‘Pride’ we were told ‘comes before a fall’.


But there is also an issue of emotional  intelligence attached to talking too much about oneself or one’s achievements. It is a narcissistic and inconsiderate behavioural trait that tends to alienate others. The dictionary defines boasting as ‘to talk with excessive pride and self satisfaction about one’s abilities or possessions’ and lists a whole selection of pejorative adjectives as synonyms. When we boast we are often saying ‘look I am better than you’ and that does not endear us to others.  But the drive to tell everyone how great we are comes more often from a real lack of self esteem. People stroke their own ego in order to convince themselves of their own self worth. As one modern dictionary put it:

“Boasting is someone attempting to hide their dumbassness by repeatedly lauding their one and only (generally small) victory to their friends or a random crowd of strangers, depending on who is handy.”

So: no –one likes a braggart and boasting can reveal a real lack of confidence –where  does that leave interviewees and ambitious careerists?  with a problem? In the modern world it is critical to build a brand, to have strong networks who promote you. As Margie Warrell puts it

The old adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know” no longer holds true. Nowadays, it’s “who knows what you know.”

 

If in the interview you do not put forward your accomplishments then you will never get the job. Lack of enthusiasm, hesitancy and lack of confidence in your own abilities are key reasons people get turned down by interviewers. So what is the solution? Here are some tips for interviews and networking to help you promote yourself without  being annoying.

  • Don’t promote yourself but promote your value. Reframe your experience and expertise in terms of the value that you have to contribute. Describe how you could solve a problem or overcome and obstacle and describe it in terms of how you would work with others to do so.
  • Tell a story. Human beings are conditioned to like stories ad there is nothing so powerful  as a well told story (using STAR) that shows your enthusiasm and your skills. You don’t need to tell people that you are really good at something if you just describe an occasion when you have excelled with that skill.
  • Be relevant. Don’t jump into a conversation announcing your greatest triumph but listen to others and when an occasion arises tell others factually what you have achieved. Keep your story relevant to the conversation.
  • Tell it once. Part of the reason that people dislike braggarts is that they go on and on about their achievements (or those of their grandchildren)  and don’t know when to shut up. So tell your story once and then move on to ask others about their experience. Or in an interview, wait for the next question.
  • Don’t use hyperbole. People who boast tend to over dramatize their stories, keep it factual and keep it to the point. Try not to use emotive language or exaggerate the difficulties that you overcame. Be realistic about achievements.
  • Share the glory. Make it clear that although you have used first person singular , you could not have achieved this without the help and hard work of other team members. When networking give others their due praise and credit. Promote them and in return they will promote you.
  • When asked about strengths you do not have to say that you are the best compared to others,   tell them what you think you do best. That is what the questions is asking about. What are your strengths? not  ‘what are you better than anyone else at?’. Your don’t have to say “I’m really good at…”, say “what I do best..” Everyone has things they feel most comfortable doing or most at ease doing.  Find a way to express those things that you feel comfortable and confident using and practice it.
  • Never steal the credit from others when it is not due to you. You never know who or what the other person actually knows.
  • Express empathy with others. Always give the interviewer time to talk, finish their question and be sensitive to them.

Share your good news with those you trust but share your emotional intelligence with everyone. Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter give us a channel to share everything with everyone but need to be used sensitively ‘wow I got a huge raise’ is not going to go down well with people in your network that are hard up and struggling, especially if they think they deserve it more than you do. So watch what you say and where  you say it but don’t hide your light under a bushel. Follow these tips, promote yourself appropriately and promote others equally.

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Navigating through the application

I often get asked about all the different bits of paperwork: “Yes, ambulance I know I need cover letter, pill  all the advice is that hiring managers  hate getting just a CV and nothing else  but what should it say?  And is it the same as a supporting statement and why do they need two things? And why if I have done a  CV do I any of that?”  Or if the adverts says “Please explain why you are applying for this vacancy and you feel your transferrable skills, order relevant experience and achievements match the competencies for this role. Please make reference to the job description. What do I do then?”  Recently I came across another  requirement: a two page autobiography saying what had driven you career and what you are proud of”

Yes, it’s a minefield and very confusing. And what should I send and if I am applying on line where do I put it?

Ok let’s think about it. What does the future employer want to know and how are they going to find it out? They want to do three main things:

  1. What experience have you got? And the more senior you are the more likely they will be looking for experience and someone who has already been successful in that sector and that sort of role. And they are going to find that out in a CV that is rich in achievements and examples of your success in just the things that they want you to do.
  2. What motivation have you got for this role? That is where your ‘cover letter’ comes into play. Your cover letter will tell them what interests you about the organisation, about the role, what the challenges are of the role and what makes you think that you can solve those challenges. The fact that you have thought about who they are, what challenges they face, what the job involves, all demonstrate that you are interested.
  3. What skills and competencies do you have that would make you suitable for them in this role? And here we are at the supporting statement, of the statement of suitability or whatever they have chosen to call it the ‘How I meet the person spec’ bit. But you may argue, surely that is all in the CV? They know I can lead, they know I can sell, they know I can open up new avenues of business… as my bullet points of achievements tell them that, my list of key skills (or motherhood words as I call them) tell them that. Well yes they may be able to infer your skills  form the Cv but not the style. They can’t tell how you achieved those things. And saying that you have financial skills is assertion not evidence. And in many sectors evidence is king and assertion is the fool outside the castle gate.

 

cover letter

So your Cv is a summary of your achievements and your cover letter is your demonstration of your  motivation and  statement demonstrates your competence. It is longer. It is the flesh on the bones of those achievements. It is the evidence of the skills and your style of achieving. It is the demonstration that you understand the processes that go into achieving those things and that your approach and style matches theirs.

So if you are asked for a CV… send a CV and a cover letter

If you are asked for a CV and cover letter, I think you should merge your cover letter and supporting statement into one document and send them that

If you are asked for a CV and supporting statement, I think you should send them the CV, the cover letter and the supporting statement

And if you are asked for an autobiography… get your thinking cap on… refer to my article on answering the interview question on ‘give us an overview of your career’ and tell them exactly what you need them to hear!

You need to answer those questions.  Once you know what they need to hear worry less about the format and get cracking on the superb content!.

 

pen

 

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First Impressions? is what you see what you get? 

elephant cartoon

How many legs does this elephant have? Hard to tell and sometimes you really do need to look twice or three times to see the person behind the tattoo or the lion in the sheep’s skin. It takes just one-tenth of a second for us to judge someone and make our first impression, and our confidence in impression formation increases with the time taken to form the impression. Not only do we take milliseconds to work out what something is when we first see it, we also decide whether or not we like it!
Two things reminded me of the power of initial impressions,  a recent poll on Linked In suggested that 25% people make a decision in an interview in the first few minutes of the interview.  Then a candidate who planned to call the Chief Executive of an organisation he was applying to  was taken aback when I said ‘you never get a second one chance to make a first impression routine’. He was really amazed. It had not occurred to him  that this casual conversation could have a decisive effect on his career.

Given that people are forming impressions of us all the time, not just in interviews but in meetings, in the corridor, when we meet a new colleague, manager of partner; we need to be aware of the fact that our Linked In profile, our telephone call or our Cv all project an image of what we are like.    ‘Your reputation goes before you is another truth’ we should not ignore.

Many of us are acutely aware of the fact that our audiences do form first impressions and there is a mass of advice out there about smiling, firm handshakes and shiny shoes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolkinseygoman/2011/02/13/seven-seconds-to-make-a-first-impression/

There is much less advice on how to improve our own ability to make those snap judgements successfully and accurately. Gladwell in his book ‘Blink’ says that these primitive (and very useful) abilities to size up a person (enemy or friend) very quickly can be both educated and controlled and that when they go awry they go wrong for a specific and consistent set of reasons . We can start to identify what those reasons are by understanding our own prejudices, to challenge in the moment our own thought processes. We can train ourselves to suspend judgement , not to label or categorise in those first 7 seconds. We can train ourselves to really listen to the person we are meeting, to see the world from their shoes, to find common ground and to build empathy. We can objectively try to compare the data  with our real experience. Consider the person in a different light ‘if this person was smaller what would I be thinking? If this person did not have tattoos, what would I be thinking? If this person was already my employee what would I be thinking…’

To take action and make un examined decisions on those first impressions maybe to dismiss someone who can have real value in your life, to  attach to someone who quickly turns out to be able to bring less value than you initially thought, or even worse who has a destructive and negative impact on you.  Keep learning and keep challenging yourself  to overcome your preconceptions and prejudices. And  keep perfecting those smiles and shiny shoes… they may count for more than you think!

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owlWise- how to be wise…

In spite of the fact that this word is worth a measly 7 scrabble points, more about I rather  like this word. The dictionary meaning is having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion.

So how does one become wise?

Age apparently has nothing to do with it…between ages 25 to 75, the correlation between age and wisdom is zero. Further research shows that intelligence only accounts for about 2% of the variance in wisdom. Wisdom emerges not from experience itself, but rather from reflecting thoughtfully on the lessons gained from experience.

See the world in shades of grey, not black and white – wise people are capable of integrative thinking “the capacity to hold two diametrically opposing ideas in their heads”—and reconcile them for the situation at hand.

Balance self-interest and the common good. A second defining quality of wisdom is the ability to look beyond our personal desires. As one psychologist puts it: “wisdom and egocentricity are incompatible… people who have gotten where they are by not taking other people’s interests into account or even by actively thwarting the interests of others… would not be viewed as wise.” It’s neither healthy nor productive to be extremely altruistic or extremely selfish. They find ways to benefit others that also advance their own objectives.

Challenge the status quo. Wise people are willing to question rules. Instead of accepting things as they have always been, wisdom involves asking whether there’s a better path.

Aim to understand, rather than judge. Wise people resist the impulse to judge, operating more like detectives whose goal is to explain other people’s behaviours. This yields an advantage in predicting others’ actions, enabling wise people to offer better advice to others and make better choices themselves.

Focus on purpose over pleasure. Wise people weren’t any happier than their peers. They didn’t experience more positive emotions, perhaps because wisdom requires critical self-reflection and a long-term view. They recognized that just as today’s cloud can have a silver lining tomorrow, tomorrow’s silver lining can become next month’s suffering. However, there was a clear psychological benefit of wisdom: a stronger sense of purpose in life. From time to time, wisdom may involve putting what makes us happy on the back burner in our quest for meaning and significance.

Wisdom is  a virtue according to every great philosophical and religious tradition, from Aristotle to Confucius and Christianity to Judaism, Islam to Buddhism, and Taoism to Hinduism. According to the book From Smart to Wise, wisdom distinguishes great leaders from the rest of the pack.  So maybe practising your wise muscles could be a winning formula!

I think a wise person seeks out experts and ensures that they have a counsellor to bounce ideas off, someone who can help them see all sides of a situation and help them integrate those views. Someone who does not judge and who will help them to keep focused on their purpose. Yes I think that a coach can do all those things and help you achieve more careers success.

“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems – not people; to focus your energies on answers – not excuses.

William Arthur Ward.  Very wise words for our politicians as they throw the blame around……

For more on balancing self-interest and the common good, see Adam M Grant’ s book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

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The JOY of  work?

penguin love my job

joyI recently watched ‘Sunshine on Leith’, page described as a feel good movie, page I found myself grinning at large chunks of the film. The same expression I saw on my father-in-law’s face as he watched his younger son with newest grandchild on skype. How often do we feel real joy like that? We often talk about job satisfaction or enjoying our work, but when does it give us that real boost of endorphins? And should it?

Well work should give you both satisfaction and joy but for it feel ‘joyful’  I think you have to release some of your inhibitions, to understand that it is OK to take pure pleasure in a  job well done, in a colleague triumphant and a customer satisfied. I think we fail to find joy in work because we don’t savor the moment.. we rush on by to find the next customer, the next task… So my advice for 2014 – savor the moment!

It’s an exercise I often set people, spend a few minutes each day focusing on what went well. Get a nicely bound notebook (such a Luddite, I know) and make a note of what went well. Turn your focus and attention, not to what you have to do tomorrow but to what you have done today. On the minutiae of your accomplishments and observations.  I often wonder if daily prayer is not an excellent way of doing this but you don’t have to be religious or address your comments to God. Just notice what went well and allow yourself to smile. Keep your book in private place and revisit it often – especially when you feel down.

We know that our brains are very selective about what they notice and what they pay attention to. Your brain finds evidence to support the mental map it has made of the world. But the map is not the territory and if you send this fantastic, sophisticated tool on a mission to find things at work that make you smile and give you joy.. then it will succeed. Joy can come from (as the cheesey song says) raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens… if we stop and notice those things and allow ourselves the possibility of joy. So savor your moments and capture those things that make you smile.

And if you would like to see what made me smile..  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOAv4KYnweo, this is an amateur video of the screening but shows the exuberance of the flashmob dancing at the end of the film. Now being part of a flashmob that would make me smile… just how do you find one?

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Why you might need some  conscious competence!

recording deskI was doing my stint on the local ‘talking newspaper’ where I am a sound engineer the other night. What a difference a year (or two) makes! My first few recordings were fraught with anxiety and littered with mistakes; I dreaded the phone going on Saturday mornings with the  ‘hello its Ken here, buy information pills just thought you should know……’  Now I multi task and could not tell you what I do, shop it ‘just happens’ and seems to take no time at all.

At the start of my work with them, I was in a state of unconscious incompetence; I did not know what I did not know. Very soon I moved to a state of conscious incompetence! We use 3 different computer programs to record and there is a lengthy instruction manual and it seemed to take ages to fiddle and twiddle all those knows and dials. I lived in constant fear that I would delete the recording (I did once.. we had to sit down and re read). It all felt bewildering with labyrinthine instructions, illogical instructions and references to techie words I’d not met before.

Somehow with some practice and analysis of the process, some putting down the  manual and figuring it out for myself I learned to make the recordings. I  got myself to a state of conscious competence. I amended the process to suit my brain and I  was flying, sometimes I ‘d finished without using the manual or even thinking about it. I have reached the state of unconscious competence.

Things that we do a lot and that we are competent at become automatic. We don’t think about them (I am better at guessing a mental arithmetic sum than trying to do it purposely- my subconscious is better than my conscious), we just do them.   Being able to just do something is great as it frees our conscious brain up to do other things. When James Martin is doing his live cookery show he only thinks about the interviews he is doing not the cooking. Cooking is ‘in the muscle’ so he does not need to think about it.   However there are some dangers in being in unconscious competence:

You may slip into bad habits and find that you are not as competent as you think you are or should be. Driving is a classic, we get to drive without thinking about it but there are real dangers in not giving the road and other users one’s full attention. One of these days my shortcuts could mean a major recording error.

You can’t train someone else to do something if you don’t know how you  do it. Each of us needs to develop our staff and share our skills, that is not going to happen if we can’t explain how we make things happen, how we understand our budgets or build relationships. These things may be ‘in the muscle’ but to train you need to make them explicit.

In interviews you can’t convince someone that you can think strategically, motivate staff  or deliver a project by saying ‘I just do’. You need to work at unpicking what it is that you do and then be ready to describe it. Increasingly organisations want people who are self aware and self managing.. so ‘I just do’ is not going to wash. Get some conscious competence!

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Recently there  I read an article called ‘the cover letter is dead’, physician it suggested that no one has time to read these things and that if you want to stand out from the crowd in your application you need to phone up the recruiting manager and talk to them, prostate then send your CV. I can’t quite remember who it was who wrote it or what planet they were from, but I was howling in anger! Standing out from the crowd is not the easiest thing but to give people blanket advice to ditch their cover letter is to help them commit job hunter’s  suicide. So how does one stand out from the crowd and get past the gatekeepers?

  1. Do not ditch the cover letter! Time and again recruiters complain that applicants send a CV and a note saying ‘here is my cv’. Actually someone who writes a good cover letter, stands more chance of standing out than someone who writes nothing.  But the cover letter has to say something meaningful. It has to say why you want to work for them, what you like about them; it has to say what you see as their challenges and how you can help address those challenges. Having recently screened a batch of applications I could have wept at the number of people who threw away the opportunity to convince me that they understood the organisation, its issues and to show me that they could do the role. Ok in the public sector you are asked to do a supporting statement saying how you meet the person specification but please do it intelligently. Say what the reader wants to hear about, give evidence and include a cover letter!
  2. Think about who is recruiting and how they might like to communicate. I was coaching a young man who wants to work in gardening. My guess is that many of the bosses in those firms are walkers and talkers not readers. In that case ‘the cover letter is dead’ might be true. How much more powerful to go and visit those firms and ask to see the boss, give him the Cv and say you are looking for work. An emailed Cv won’t get read. A young man who calls in every two weeks to offer his services will stand out. If you work in a highly creative adampacitti_600x300sector the Cv and cover letter may be dead, to stand out you may need an infographic or a video or website link (with a suitable website behind it). Take a look at  phildub.com/ or the man who hired a billboard or the one who sent out a chocolate bar.   BUT  in the public sector world of words and forms – yes the cover letter , the supporting statement and the Cv are all key tools. But to stand out they need to be good and tailored to the role you are applying for.
  3. Get the inside track. Do your research on the organisation you are applying to. Make them realise that you really are keen on them by your use of three or four key bits of information that show you have looked beyond the first page of the website.  Use your networks to find people who have worked there, use websites like  glassdoor.com to gain intelligence on the organisation.
  4. Less is more. Research on smart thinking makes clear that most people will remember roughly three things about any new meeting, book, or encounter. That rule of three applies to what employers will remember about you. So find three things about yourself that you want to highlight. Focus your communications on those three elements. Three clear bullet points. Three distinct paragraphs. Don’t be tempted to tell them everything  you have ever done but make those three things really specific. Not ‘I have thirty plus years in housing  and am a strong, decisive  leader’  but three key skills that they need.
  5. Stand out in a good way. Some people think that they can be quirky and it will always be good, no love hearts or emoticons please. And yes in the Uk a photo will make you stand out but usually it does not help you impress, photos are generally seen as being ‘odd’ in the uk, so avoid in this country but in Germany you should include and in France hand write…. They love their graphology.  Don’t be tempted with fancy fonts and fancy formats on your Cv, remember people scan these really quickly and if it looks too fussy they will not read them, so keep the format  plain and the content sophisticated. choc bar cv.jpg
  6. Don’t forget  your key words in case this application is being read by a machine not a person in the first instance.
  7. Phone a friend, well if not a friend who can open a door for you in that organisation, phone the recruiter or the hiring manager if you can. And ask (amongst other things) what they would  like to see in a job application, how they want it presented, what will make their life easier when they are screening. You’ll stand out as the one that considered their needs.

Standing out in a crowded market place is really tough but it can be done, through  thought, work and excellence.

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