How to be a great candidate…

Published: 16 August 2016

We spend a great deal of time focusing on the importance of how you join an organisation and the impression you make in those critical on-boarding weeks. Equally, there is much advice available about how to resign and exit a business with creditability and dignity intact. 

But what about the way to manage your job search and the companies and external partners you interact with during this period? In an increasingly disparate marketplace with many recruitment agencies and consultancies how do you present your best self to all and ensure you are easy to work with? How can you balance being realistic in your aspirations while also securing a role that will stretch you and your abilities? It’s a really hard ask and a process that involves maintaining complex relationships.

With experience working in in-house talent roles, as a contingent recruiter in Executive Search, as someone that has been a candidate in recent years and now in my capacity as a retained recruiter the following are my recommendations on what to consider as a candidate embarking on a job search:

Your saleability

When a client looks for new talent they are seeking people that are qualified and bring something unique and valuable to their business.  Therefore your first priority is articulating what you do and how you do it well. It’s fine to also want to experience new and different, but this won’t get you to interview, your track record will.

Promote your strengths and what the potential employer will want to buy in your CV, raise your aspirations in the room.  Your CV is the story of your career so it should flow, make sense but not detail every moment – it’s a preview not the whole journey.

Your personal brand reputation

We don’t live in a one dimensional world anymore and there is information about us all around.  Your digital reputation tells a story so make sure it is consistent and that your CV, your LinkedIn page and to some degree your Facebook page send the types of message you want potential employers to hear.  Its fine to have fun and a life out of work, just remember LinkedIn is professional and should reflect this, Facebook is social and in my view should be a closed community.   I would advise a difference in look and feel in each space and a warm friendly photograph is a must, don’t be a faceless candidate online.

Balance brand perception with qualified research

We all have strong views about brands and brand values but if my time in recruitment has taught me anything it is that the consumer view of a brand versus the employee brand experience can be very different. It’s the role of a quality recruitment partner to present the positives of a role and business but also to understand the challenges and the potential frustrations - all organisations and roles have both.  This is a good way to work out if the recruitment agency and/or consultant working on the role actually know their client well. How knowledgeable are they, are they working exclusively on the role, what information do they share with you, and how thorough are they in terms of getting to know you and what matters to you?

A quality recruitment consultant wants you to get the right role

It’s in my best interests to find the candidates that are closest to the brief, both in terms of experience, track record and attributes and behaviours. This means me getting to know my candidates well and understand their motivations and aspirations.  A good recruitment professional will advise you on whether your expectations are realistic, but also will want to ensure that they are putting you on the shortlist for roles which balance your experience and your aspirations. There is no value for me, my client or candidates I work with to mismanaging expectations.  

There’s a difference between a healthy challenge to your opinion about an opportunity, and being oversold and pushed towards a role you aren’t convinced about. I have most success when I listen to my candidates, provide advice but respect their views and when they are honest in return – much as you may dislike recruitment professionals, people are a hard commodity to manage!

It’s not about whether you can do the job; it’s about who you are competing with

A real frustration for any candidate is applying for a dream role and feeling that they have every aspect of the requirements covered, only to receive a regret response – no interview or opportunity to present themselves. 

There are two main considerations here; remembering to use your CV to present your experience in a way that complements the role in question, highlighting your relevant strengths.  Secondly, being mindful that there may be required and ideal experience sought by the client and if the competition is fierce it may just be that you are up against applicants with even more expertise that you.  Don’t be disheartened, and work with good quality recruitment firms to understand the market and refine your CV and approach to increase your success rate.

Tamsin Terry-Lush is Head of the Retail Practice for Berwick Partners 

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