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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!

May 9 / admin

Social Networking sites (further)


Since I wrote my last post about social networking sites, I have continued to ask headhunters and candidates what their experience has been.  Without exception, they have been in favour of a candidate being on LinkedIn.  From the headhunters’ point of view, it has almost become a first port of call for many of them: they receive a new assignment and they can go straight to LinkedIn, put in some key words and begin to see what the field of possible candidates looks like, or they can search from a list of those who have worked for competitor companies.  In addition, the headhunters’ researchers may well have been up-graded to a paying account so that they can send ‘InMail’ messages direct to a potential candidate.

From the candidate’s point of view, it therefore becomes almost essential to have a profile – if you want to be found by the headhunters!  And there are a number of things that you can do to improve your profile and enhance the likelihood of being found.  First, it is important to make sure that you have all the key words that relate to your skills and experience present in your profile. Second, you can ask current or past colleagues or clients to write a recommendation for you on your page.  Third, you need to make sure that you have checked your ‘Account & Settings’ so that the information that you want to be seen can be viewed easily by others.

This may all feel a bit passive: make a good profile and wait for the headhunters to come calling.  But there a number of pro-active things that candidates can do too:  for example, you can search for jobs under the ‘Jobs’ tab; and you can join the relevant Groups and start contributing to them.  Perhaps the most powerful weapon is being able to contact potential targets.  To do this, you can look up a list of people you would like to contact, say all those in HR in the UK.  Then you can see if you have a ‘shared connection’ with any of them and ask that shared connection if he / she will pass on a message to the target person.  If you decide to up-grade (and pay!), then you get the chance to send a number of ‘InMails’ without needing a ‘shared connection’.

A good paper that identifies the best ways of making the most of LinkedIn is one by Olivier Taupin and accessible through his LinkedIn page: ‘LinkedIn for Recruiters: Advanced Techniques for Finding Top Talent on LinkedIn’.  Although it’s written for recruiters, much of the information is useful for candidates too.

I would be extremely interested to hear from anyone – headhunter or candidate – what their experience has been of LinkedIn or any of the other main sites and whether or not they have found up-grading to a paid account on LinkedIn worth while.