Putting yourself in the shoes of an executive recruiter is one of the most useful ways to lead an effective job search. How do they work? Where do they find talent? What do they want to see in a CV to really understand a person’s professional value?
Laura Urue, FMCG and Financial Services Director at Catenon Executive Search, shared her insights with me recently from her office on Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona.
“There is no such thing as a good or bad candidate,” she explained as we began our conversation. “It all depends on to which company they are applying and that particular client’s needs. An applicant that is not a good fit for one job is still an excellent candidate for another company.”
Therefore, demonstrating your value as that good candidate for the right-fit position and getting the message out to your network is key. To do this, crafting and delivering a clear value proposition for a CV, LinkedIn profile or possible elevator pitch opportunities is the best way to make it onto an executive recruiter’s radar.
Laura explains how Catenon Executive Search works and offers some useful tips to help you prepare your job search strategy.
How do you begin a process and what tools do you use?
We conduct a multichannel search. After a client has specified their requirements, we post the job offer on our web. We also contact career services offices at business schools like IESE, ESADE and Instituto de Empresa to inform them about the job offer. At the same time, we develop a direct search strategy for each position. Our consultants begin a LinkedIn search using the keywords our client has provided with specific job requirements and skills. We also use various other sources to identify potential candidates, especially recommendations through our network of contacts.
What steps can an executive candidate expect to go through after you contact them?
There are basically four steps:
- We begin with a telephone interview to explore whether the candidate is a good potential fit. We explain the job requirements, location, etc. Since we often contact people who are not actively looking for new opportunities, we have to confirm that they are also interested in the position.
- After this first step, we create a tailor-made questionnaire for each position based on the information the client has given us. So for example, if they are looking for a Director of R&D, our contact gives us very specific data regarding the competencies they desire and the areas where we need to probe to draw more useful insights so that we can subsequently produce a thorough report. If this report identifies that the candidate is a good potential fit, then we proceed to interview the candidate.
- This interview can be in person or by Skype, depending on where the candidate lives. In it we explore his or her CV and the motivation for pursuing the opportunity. We try to identify the different aspects of the candidate’s personality and experience that are directly relevant to the job and the company culture. In addition, since launching our joint venture with Indra, we have integrated more digital components to make our evaluation process more efficient, something we have been pioneering for the last two decades. For example, in this interview stage we include a video recording of the candidate where he or she has a chance to discuss the other areas of their profile with concrete examples that demonstrate their skills.
- At this point, we upload all the above information to the client area of our web: the original CV, an evaluation summarizing the candidate’s strengths, the questionnaire, the video, and finally, our analysis supporting the individual’s candidature as a finalist.
So your job is about aggregating, analyzing and submitting profiles to your client?
Actually that is just one part of our job. By having so much data at our finger tips—about the company’s needs and also about each candidate’s experience beyond what they express on their CV—we can bring much greater value to the selection process.
This means that often we advocate for top candidates who we know fit the bill in more ways than just “checking all the right boxes.” So for example, perhaps the client’s hiring committee explicitly wanted exactly 15 years of experience in the industry and one of our candidate only has 10. But it turns out that those 10 years are much more valuable because of how she was able to contribute innovative solutions to the employer than the 15 that another candidate possesses. In the end, we know that the company will be better off if they see at least some of the list of requirements as guidelines rather than hard and fast “musts.”
Is there the perfect CV format that supports an individual’s candidature more than another?
In the same way that there is not a good or bad candidate, there is no exact formula for the best CV. I would say it is really about common sense, especially if the candidate does the simple exercise of putting him or herself in my shoes. I know what my client is looking for and if the job is posted on our web, so does the applicant. So that is what I need to see on paper. And because my team reads so many CVs, the most relevant information needs to leap off the page. My team should not have to spend time reading between the lines or deducing results based on responsibilities. So if I am looking for someone with experience in rebranding in the food and beverage sector, I shouldn’t have to wait until page two to discover this.
Do you have any specific tips that make a CV easier to analyze?
Everyone in this field has personal preferences, and these are impossible for the applicant to know ahead of time. So for example, here in Europe even though the trend is moving toward not including a picture on a CV, I personally prefer it with a picture. It allows me to envision the person as I am reading. Another thing that I personally prefer is for the dates of employment to include both the month and the year, especially if someone has not been at a job for more than a few years. Starting in January of 2017, for instance, is certainly not the same as beginning in December of the same year.
Beyond these details, and again, they are personal preferences, all of us like to see how each person has influenced outcomes, how they have introduced solutions. This information is what really differentiates one candidate from another and it is what interests our client the most.
What about cover letters?
Generally, our clients do not request them. So I recommend that a candidate simply submit the CV with 3 or 4 lines in the email that give me insight as to their motivation. They could include the information in the headline of their CV or LinkedIn profile, or if they have a branding statement, include something similar in that short text.
What about hobbies? Is it something that you really look at?
If in your spare time you like going to the movies or reading novels, then it is not really differentiating and not worth putting on your CV. On the other hand, if you play a federated sport, run marathons or participated in sailing competitions crossing the Atlantic, these activities show commitment and resilience. Therefore they are indeed noteworthy and, if you have space, you should put them on your CV.
Any advice that you’d like to add to help executive and senior managers in their search?
They must prioritize two things. First, an optimized LinkedIn profile that really communicates their personal brand and professional value so that my team can find them easily when they are conducting their search. Second, and something that is almost the most important element of a search: networking. This is one of our primary sources of candidates both from our own contacts and also through our Talent Hacker program. So get out there and attend events, conferences, take former colleagues and neighbors out for lunch or coffee. You might gain three kilos in the process, but you won’t regret investing those calories in getting the word out.
Catenon is a global headhunting firm with a digital DNA and 30+ offices in 100 countries. Their talent solutions include executive search and global solutions (RPO).
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