As a head-hunter, I am paid to research and approach the passive market. My clients want to meet with candidates who:

  • Are performing in their roles
  • Are not cyclical respondents to job adverts
  • Haven’t worked for three of their competitors
  • Have stable, progressive work history

Clearly, the above makes for a desirable candidate. Unfortunately, my experience tells me that often this leads to a candidate who is not as sharp as their serial job hopping counterparts at interview stages.

I often find myself highlighting this to clients when debriefing on my interviews, ahead of their rounds, but both myself and the client can only allow for a tinge of flex in this. This got me reflecting on areas stable employees tend to fall short on (other than polished, well versed CV’s). In summary, areas for improvement often include:

  • Understanding your brief: What were you brought in to achieve? Was it turnaround; develop a new offering (market or product); build on the foundations of success
  • Your strategy: How did you build on your understanding of the situation that you inherited (team’s ability, financials, culture); how did you spot opportunities to change and grow and, of increasing importance, how did you influence your team in this change of direction?
  • Quantifiables: This is the biggie. Because you have not been cross questioned on your successes for years your understanding of what the above resulted in may well be vague and, believe me, that makes interviewers nervous

Not all interviewers will forensically go through your past 20 years of work history, but it is essential you can speak with authority around your main roles. CAR is a well-known acronym, standing for Challenge à Actions à Results,  that should add the structure headhunted candidates often lack.

Another area I often witness headhunted candidates lacking in is the “blowing of one’s own trumpet”. Okay, I appreciate companies look for leaders who create an inclusive, “one team” culture, where it is the team who succeeded. Please, do not dilute the message that you deliver to the interviewer though. If “Project X” was your brainchild, with it’s success or failure landing on your lap, tell it as it is. Use strong, ownership language to convey your level of involvement, leadership and accountability. 

I would highly recommend ahead of meeting with an interviewer you spend an hour scribbling all over your CV around the above subjects, ensuring they are ingrained into your memory, as they will crop up and be a main topic of conversation.  And on prep, better headhunted interviewees spend time running through the Candidate Profile and Requirements section of a spec marrying up real life examples of how they excel in these areas. 

 In summary, more clients than not understand interviewees who do not actively have to accept a role will be a little green to the process and preparation but it really makes me feel for the candidates who get rejected as a result, often when, this aside, they are the perfect fit for a role.