After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Imerman Angels

It is summertime and outdoor activities are in high gear. Pools are open, street festivals pop up around the city, neighboring states invite us to experience their exclusive brands of serenity, and charity golf outings can cause dramatic work stoppages that threaten the economy.  I am frequently invited as a fourth to one or more of these outings for my ability to drive the ball off the tee.  I admit I am a blacksmith and my former hockey slap shot has left me with a good long ball.  I do notice, however, that I am advised to stay in the cart when short, touch shots are required. 

Many of these golf outings raise money for a good cause.  I have golfed my heart out for college scholarships, kidney foundations (dear to my heart as I do have a drink occasionally), politicians (did I say a good cause?), and most recently, a unique cancer-related organization.  I am taking a break from career comments this week to make you aware of Imerman Angels, the group that held last Friday’s golf outing. 

One of my professional beliefs is that having a mentor who has substantially more experience in your specific field is a huge benefit.  That mentor can guide you as you navigate the course of your career.  Someone who has “been there” can tell you what to expect and help you through the tough times.  Imerman Angels is a mentoring group for individuals who have received a cancer diagnosis.

My family and I have been fortunate to have had very little firsthand exposure to life-threatening cancer issues for many years.  A few friends have experienced glancing blows but nothing serious.  I pray that it stays that way.  Bottom line, I don’t know exactly what happens during the cancer treatment process. 

Several cancer survivors were present at Friday’s fundraiser.  They described in some detail their first moments after diagnosis, the gut-wrenching decision-making process, the experience of chemo/radiation sessions and the subsequent recuperation period.  It is hard to know how you would deal with that scenario, unprepared for what was awaiting you.

John Imerman established Imerman Angels after personally experiencing the assault of cancer.  In 2003, based upon his experience fighting testicular cancer, he founded the organization to link recently diagnosed cancer victims with survivors in a mentor relationship.  The Angels have developed and continue to expand a database of individuals who have survived a broad array of cancers.  These individuals then volunteer to mentor, one-on-one, individuals who have been recently diagnosed with a similar form of cancer.  The mentor serves as a voice of hope, who can describe the process of treatment and recovery because the mentor has beaten the exact same type of cancer.

Imerman Angels was unknown to me until last week.  I cannot tell you how much this group impressed me with its mission and enthusiasm for work being done.  I invite you to take a look at their website at  If you can help, do what you will.

As we go through our day-to-day stress-inducing activities at work or in the home, keep in perspective that whatever problems you have may pale in comparison to the issues faced by those who are fighting for their lives around the world. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cut. It. Out.

I have read a lot of resumes in my life.  Each day I receive unsolicited resumes via US Mail and e-mail because I have been identified as a world-renowned headhunter on some recruitment website or other.  Which proves self promotion works.

While I would not consider resume reading to be as exciting as venturing into the latest Mitch Rapp novel (Vince Flynn) I can honestly say that perusing people’s backgrounds has always remained interesting to me.  However, there is a boredom barrier, and some resumes go well beyond it.  Mad Men may be all the rage these days, but as a rule, any lengthy details regarding the days before the PC are probably not relevant to any job search you are conducting today.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love examples and details in resumes.  A resume with no examples is like a stick figure when I’m looking for a digital photograph. But the further back in your career you go, the fewer details you need to provide in your resume.  A resume is an outline, not an all-inclusive personal biography.

In my book, I tell candidates who are preparing for an interview to summarize their early career at the 20,000-foot level, and use their interview time to emphasize more recent and relevant experience.  The same holds true when you are composing a resume.

For instance, your college internships are important when applying for your first post-college position as they serve to differentiate you from your peers and demonstrate ambition. But after seven or eight years, you should have bigger and better accomplishments to describe.  (In this economy, who knows?  But I digress.)  So after a few years, remove all but a brief, if any, mention of the internships. 

Similarly, the fact that you were frat president, homecoming queen, athlete, or reporter at the campus newspaper may be worth mentioning on your resume for a few years, but beyond that…not so much. 

If you started out as an administrative assistant and are now Chief Marketing Officer, by all means delete the line about the name tags you typed with zero mistakes. 
The problem with resumes is:  most people don’t use one very often, so they pull out the 5-year old version when the need suddenly arises.  This is fine, but don’t forget to eliminate some of the old stuff in favor of adding new, fresh examples and details. This way, your resume will be more current, more relevant to your potential employer and more interesting for the headhunter.  

When in doubt, cut it out. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Chance Phone Call

Over the past several weeks, I have initiated nearly 400 phone calls related to various searches I am conducting.  This is the reaching-out phase of any search, when a recruiter spreads his net far and wide (by phone) in hopes of attracting the very best talent for his client.

Identifying and contacting potential candidates who are neither expecting nor seeking my call is what a recruiter does, so I expect to make friends with a lot of voice mail recordings.  When I actually get to speak to a person, the responses run the gamut from “No- thanks-click” to “What’s the next step, Bob?”

Perhaps one of the most satisfying parts of my job is finding a talented individual whose abilities are being under-utilized or wrongly utilized in his/her current position, but who doesn’t know exactly what the next career step should be.  Often, my phone call launches a whole process of “possibility-thinking” in which some thoughtful analysis occurs and some dreams begin to take shape. 

It is my opinion that chance, an open mind, and sometimes an unsolicited phone call from a really helpful headhunter - can move and shake a career in ways beyond what an individual might envision.  If nothing else, it is a great opportunity for a professional to evaluate his/her current job. 

A good recruiter will have a reasonable idea of your current employment situation.  The recruiter should be able to tell you the industry and many of the details concerning the role about which he/she is calling.  Listen carefully.  If the position being described compares well with your current job or is in area that interests you, take time to ask a few questions and obtain further information.  Where is the job?  What is the pay range?  These two questions are like free throws in basketball; take them.  Whether you go further in the conversation is up to you, but you now have valuable input as to your relative worth in the job market and a career avenue that might be available to you.

I advise both my daughters who are gainfully employed to always listen to a recruiter’s message.  It doesn’t take a lot of time to pay attention to opportunities that may present themselves once-in-a-career.

Last week I also did some air travel, following up with some of the candidates I met via phone during the previous weeks.  The interview-and-select phase has begun – but only for the candidates who took a chance and accepted my call.