I was approached by a client recently who has been working in a strategic role within the NHS for over 15 years, she is keen to make a move out to a different sector and has approached me to discuss how to go about making that change. It is always difficult when you have stayed with a role/organisation for so long, we do tend to become institutionalised and our confidence levels can really suffer when we challenge ourselves to move out of our comfort zone. At first we talked through the reasons behind moving on, an important factor whenever you are looking to make a big change. Having uncovered a deep seated unhappiness with how the role has been re-shaped over a number of restructures and changes to organisational policy – it has become very clear that a move away is important for her growth and well being. As such, we have structured a plan with which to work to. First of all we need to get down on paper what she has been delivering over the years, looking at how she works, and also what some of the key challenges have been. By pulling together a skills audit with workable examples we can start to work on the confidence issues. Sometimes it takes an overview of what you have achieved and the challenges you have overcome to make you realise just how good you are! We have decided to work together in constructing a CV as a good exercise where she will learn new skills in putting together a CV in the future but also gain a strong affinity to what is being included which will help when we reach interview stage. Once we have a strong CV I have agreed to analyse the types of roles which would be a close fit for her, we will talk through these roles and assist her in gaining a wider knowledge in how her current role fits into organisations outside the NHS. Once we have pinpointed some roles of interest, we will go through the application process and ensure the applications made are the best they can be to yield greater results. Whilst this part of the process is running we will begin interview coaching, making sure we include some fantastic and relevant examples to use whilst clearly articulating the right amount of information and understanding of what is being asked of her by interviewers. The service will not conclude here, we shall continue to work together right the way through the offer process and even through to settling into a new role. This is a big move for my client so it is important she feels fully supported whilst making the transition, there will be no point she will feel fazed or overly nervous as we’ve agreed a fully inclusive mentoring and support service. The CV Righter works with you to understand your needs and offer a bespoke service which will get you on the right track.
Over the years in recruiting project professionals I have found one of the key pieces of feedback from clients is that candidates have been unclear answering questions at interview. Often starting off with an example of when they did XYZ and going off on a tangent so not covering the response effectively. This is easy enough to do when the pressure is on and you are trying to convey a great deal of information.
The key to answering the question rather than missing the point is to think about what you have been asked and think about an example which clearly demonstrates the skill being questioned. Preparation before an interview is required, by taking the job description and looking at the list of requirements you can gauge the types of questions which will be asked and from there you can think about your examples.
- Set the scene – give enough information for the interviewer to understand what it is you were delivering / supporting or the task in hand
- Talk about your actions – I know we work in teams on projects but the interviewer wants to know what you did, so avoid talking about what we did and talk about what you did!
- The outcome – what actually happened, talk about the result so the interviewer can understand how effective your actions were.
Here is an interview question and response to demonstrate how to structure your responses:
Interviewer:“Give me an example of when you have dealt with widely dispersed stakeholders?”
“When I was managing the new IT desktop roll out of Windows 7 at XXXX I was responsible for a number of technical teams based at head office and out at various divisions across the UK. The stakeholders were internal people such as a board member (the sponsor), head of IT (head of programmes), senior project managers and teams based at 4 different locations and external stakeholders such as the software development company project managers and technical teams.
I created a stakeholder map which clearly identified all the stakeholders in order of importance and a plan which covered communications. It became apparent that I would need to meet the key stakeholders on a regular basis to ensure project milestones were clear and everyone involved could gain a clear perspective of where we were in the plan and highlight any bottle necks which couldn’t be addressed at my clearance level.
The result meant that I had bi-weekly meetings with key stakeholders and regular “on the ground” reporting from workstream leads to ensure the work was being completed in a timely fashion whilst checking against the benefits to keep the senior management team on board with operations.”
The above example is rather generic but you get the idea – setting the scene to give the interviewer enough insight into what was being delivered and then talking through who the stakeholders are to demonstrate your understanding of who stakeholders are and how to harness a communications plan followed by the end result is giving the interviewer the right kind of information without going into chapter and verse and detracting away from the question and more importantly the answer.
Adopting this approach to your examples is good practice and also can help you when talking through achievements on your CV.
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!