This is an interesting topic in that a great deal of PM professionals I’ve spoken to, say that it can be an impossible feat trying to even get to speak with the recruiter direct. Skipping past all the usual excuses of gazillions of applications/calls/pressure blah blah blah, it is possible to strike up a relationship with these people as long as you make the right moves. Now, building a relationship doesn’t mean stalking… No one likes to be bombarded with calls and emails! Think about how you are approached by others and what techniques they might use which actually work and get your attention. Don’t bother if you haven’t made a good effort to sort out your CV and make it sell your abilities or haven’t done your research in regards to what type of job including which field etc you want to apply for moving forward – and for goodness sake, be realistic, you are not jumping into a programme manager role from support position. No matter how good you are and how great your sales patter – recruiters cannot seek you into their clients when you have unrealistic aspirations.
- Do your research – find the agencies and individuals who handle your type of roles
- Make contact with the identified individuals by dropping them a line and asking if it would be possible to have a chat.
- Make sure you send a well written CV ahead of your call so the recruiter can see your background.
- Don’t be pushy, no one likes to be bullied.
- Do what you say you’ll do, if you’ve arranged to call at a certain time, then do so.
- Make sure you are clear about what you want to discuss and stick to the point – recruiters are busy and don’t appreciate disorganised candidates bumbling on.
- Treat others how you wish to be treated in return, this means everyone, receptionists etc all count!
I remember a candidate working hard to build up a relationship with me, back in my PM recruitment days, we would have a chat on a bi-weekly basis and even though I wasn’t 100% I could place him, I continued to humour him when one day a role came in which was a good match for his skills. I thought about him immediately as I knew I was due a call, we discussed and I agreed to present his CV to my client. Now he wasn’t an exact match but knowing the client well, I knew I could sell him in. Having done so I was pleased to announce that an interview had been arranged for my candidate. He was very happy and so the interview coaching began, I spent quite a lot of time making sure the candidate knew all the was to know about the role and business, and ran through typical interview questions – ensuring the preparation was top notch. After all I knew he would have to shine at interview to beat off his competitors who had a closer match to the role. All was running swimmingly until a day before the interview I received an email…. Yes an email, not a call, from my candidate saying he was pulling out of the interview. Obviously I wasn’t best happy, but c’est la vie, I informed my client and made up for the disappointment with a new candidate (who was offered an interview and eventually got offered the role). So on my part I wasn’t too bothered, however I vowed I would not work with the candidate again as I had stuck my neck out for him and he had been so rude.
A few weeks later I received a call from said candidate who had the front to ask me to put him forward to other roles, I explained as politely as possible that I wouldn’t be doing that and he persisted to ring me regularly to the point I got all my calls screened and told all staff under no circumstances to put his call through. I thought he had got the message but a few months after leaving the PM recruitment business I received a text from a colleague telling me he had been in touch again…. Thankfully my former colleague did not pass on my contact details! And that is how not to make and break relationships!
Settling back at work after the holidays is always a difficult one; especially if you have been using your time away from the office to reflect on how different life could be, you might well feel like packing up your desk and leaving. You wouldn’t be the first and will not be the last to feel like this but you could use this negative energy in a positive way to give yourself something to look forward to.
Here’s a list of things you can make a start at addressing to put you in a better place to moving on in your career:
- Perform a personal stock take on your skills and abilities – learn about yourself and how your skill-set sits with the job market today, you may well find you are selling yourself short in your current role or you may identify a gap which needs addressing. Either way, it is a rarity for individuals to just sit down and take a long hard look at what you can actually do (mainly because we just get on with it).
- Clean up your online profile – pay some attention to that LinkedIn profile you have left suspended in a half finished state online (says a lot about a professional, especially those looking for a new opportunity), how is your twitter feed looking these days? What no post since 01/06/14? Have you been in touch with your peers online? Sung about your projects? Joined in chat groups… clearly not!
- Dust down your CV – having spent some time on point 1, you should have a good idea of what employers and recruiters are after seeing and you should also be in a good position to update your CV with some fresh information.
- Be really lazy at the job hunting – load your CV on the job websites and let the recruiters come to you. If your CV is good, they will be calling you, if it’s not so great you will be checking your phone for non-existent messages and maybe it is time to get a professional opinion!
So you’ve worked hard to get noticed by the employers or been through the battle of getting recruiters to represent you and the hard work has paid off as you have an interview pending, or if you are fortunate then you may have a few lined up. This is the point where you don’t sit back and wait for the day; you need to apply yourself to really impress the interviewers. Often those who have reworked their CVs find it an important refresher for what they have done over the years and it really brings home the fact that we easily forget important (and relevant to interviews) pieces of work. Also those who have sat comfortably in a role for a long time or have secured assignments without interviews will not be as prepared as those who regularly go for interview. Here’s a guide to getting yourself ready and creating a good impression at interview:
- Go through your CV and refresh yourself on what you have been doing over the past few years, pay particular attention to areas relevant to the role you are interviewing for and dig deep into your memories by walking through assignments step by step to draw out any additional detail which may not be addressed on the CV.
- Read the job description and draw out key areas of requirement, those listed core competencies are a good starting point. For example if they are asking for Change Management then you will need to supply a good example of when you have managed change, think about the bereavement curve, what the key challenges were and how you overcame them.
- Start to pull out some strong examples which you feel will be good to talk about and apply the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Actions, Results), be clear on the message you want to deliver and keep to the facts, being theoretical is not useful to the interviewer especially when you’ve actually done it so tell them how it was.
- Examples of work, some interviewers may ask you to take an example of a stakeholder communication plan or project plan – in this case take a portfolio with some strong examples and be prepared to answer questions about it.
- Research the company, so many people barely do this so take time to really understand what the business does and what key challenges they may be facing, who are their competitors, what’s new on their news pages. Also take a look about what others are saying about them, know all there is to know – really demonstrate your buy-in to them and the role.
- Do a dummy run to the offices – don’t leave the journey to chance. It is always good practice to time how long it takes and which trains/buses you need to take (or where to park the car) and going at the same time of day as the interview will take place a day or two before will give you a good idea of traffic etc. Do remember to take enough change for the meter if you are driving, I have known one candidate turn up to interview stating they can only stay for half an hour as they only had enough change for that on the meter – yes really!
- Organise what you are going to wear a day or two before; ideally all should wear a suit or smart office clothes, even those who are fashion conscious need to tone it down for an interview. Nothing too outlandish or uncomfortable either.
- Put together some good questions to ask the interviewer, it is good practice to think through the role and business – this will naturally bring up some questions about how you will fit into the team, what you’ll be doing and what is expected from you within the first few weeks/months. Write a list, better to include more than you’ll ask as some will inevitably be covered by the interviewer during discussion.
Here’s your 7 step guide to reaching success when looking for a new job:
- Research – when you take the decision to start looking for a new role you really need to understand the industry and the roles you are applying for, make a start by looking at the types of roles you wish to apply for. Job descriptions and adverts are widely available online, by reading through them and understanding what is involved you will quickly identify the roles most relevant to you. Also spend some time researching the industries you wish to work in. Look at some of the larger corporate websites to gain a greater knowledge of what is hot at the moment as these will likely be the growth areas in that field. Start to match up your skill-set and exposure to relevant projects, make a note of these and use them as examples in your CV.
- Make a list – gather a list of the relevant role titles to your skill, and place in a spreadsheet to keep track of websites which yield good search results for them. As well as searching job boards, think about placing random searches into search engines as you will also bring up roles with direct employers too which you may have otherwise missed – a lot of employers will only advertise on their own websites.
- Focus – Ensure you are spending time on roles which you can meet a minimum of 90% of the criteria listed, this saves you wasting time on roles which you are unlikely to get into the short-list for and keeps your list down to a manageable size. It is important to streamline your applications so you can spend more time tweaking your CV and writing a cover letter for so you can yield more results. It is quality not quantity!
- Make another list – create another spreadsheet of roles you have applied to and through which websites, when etc. you need to be organised when you start receiving calls from HR / recruiters etc. it does make all the difference when you sound on the ball during these calls.
- Follow up – leave it a day or two after you make an application then call up the person handling your application. Check it has been received and offer to clarify anything further they may need to know. Round up the call by asking when you can expect to hear a response regarding your application – remain professional throughout, this includes speaking to receptionists etc. be friendly, clear, helpful and don’t let frustrations show. The person handling your application makes the decision whether to pass on your CV to clients/hiring managers so keep in mind they are testing you from the first point of application. Put yourself in their shoes – if you come across abrupt or desperate then they are highly unlikely to put your forward through fear of having their reputation soiled.