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May 9 / admin

Areas of Focus – having a target!


My work with my candidates usually falls into two parts: Preparation and the Job Search.  In Preparation, there are normally four elements:  Assessment – the candidate taking me right through their career and maybe doing some psychometrics; Areas of Focus – see below; CV; and Interview Technique.

A word more on Areas of Focus.  I believe it is very important to be clear about what one is looking for.  This is so that the candidate has a well-identified target in his / her mind and so that he / she comes across clearly to headhunters, network contacts and potential employers.  I always find it dispiriting when a headhunter tells me that my candidate ‘doesn’t really know what he / she is after’.  That means it has been a wasted meeting and it also means that my candidate has come across as being indecisive.

I therefore encourage my candidates to have one, two or three – but not more – Areas of Focus.  In my view, each AoF should consist of at least a) a function and b) a sector and possibly also of c) a preferred size of company and d) a geographical location.  Thus, one AoF might be: Sales Director, pharmaceuticals, medium-to-large company, North-East.  A second one might be: Sales Director, technical product, medium-sized company, North-East and a third might be: Head of Sales, charity’s commercial arm, large, North East.

The key thing to remember is that one is not constrained for ever by this choice of AoFs.  Of course, we will do our best at the beginning to ensure that these all make good sense but it is possible that, after a couple of weeks spent investigating the market, we find that demand in the pharmaceutical sector is very weak and that we would do better to target another sector.  That’s fine: we will let one AoF go and bring forward another.

Part of the beauty of having clear AoFs is that it is then possible to fill in the most likely sources of opportunities for those roles.  In my view, there are four main sources of opportunities: advertised vacancies, the headhunters, network contacts and Special Approaches (or cold calling).   So if one AoF is Sales Director, pharmaceuticals, medium-to-large company, North East, then we know that we will need to look for advertisements in the main newspapers in the North East as well as in the Sunday Times and any important trade magazines; that we need to get in touch with headhunters who specialise in pharmaceuticals and / or senior sales roles in the North-East; that we need to think about our network contacts in pharmaceuticals and also others in the North East and that we need to put together a list of medium-to-large pharmaceuticals companies based in the North-East or at least with a large presence there.  Now we have a target that we can really get our teeth into!