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Candidates ...
give yourself a better shot at the shortlist
How to give yourself a better shot at the shortlist
For most of us, the decision to move on from an existing role or company isn’t made lightly - but once made, we want to move forward quickly...

7 November 2018
Candidates ...
does your recruiter care?
You care about your career, but does your recruiter?
For many of us, the pursuit of a new-and-improved career opportunity is a bit of a rollercoaster ride, with some highs and some lows along the way...

25 October 2018


Trusted Adviser
How to avoid the recruitment-by-numbers trap.
Having a network of recruiters ready to fill your role always seems like a good idea - until you start seeing the CVs coming through...

8 October 2018

Great process ...
great outcome
The anatomy of a winning recruitment process.
If there’s one way good recruitment can suddenly go bad, it’s process...


15 October 2018


Brand Care
How to know if your recruiter is good for your brand
To be at your best, you need the best people. But securing them isn’t always easy...


1 October 2018

Candidates ... give yourself a better shot at the shortlist
By Suzanne O'Leary

For most of us, the decision to move on from an existing role or company isn’t made lightly - but once made, we want to move forward quickly.

Naturally then, as our focus shifts towards exploring the job market, job-hunting becomes the all-important and all-consuming priority of our professional life - but we shouldn’t mistake activity for progress. Trawling through recruitment ads and sending out your resume may feel like a full-time job, but it’s not a full-proof plan for securing your ideal next role.

The key to a successful search is getting on the right shortlists - and to do that, you need a way to stand out from the crowd. Whether applying directly or through a recruitment agency, you also need to know how to work the application and pre-application process to your advantage.

My advice:

Before you start job hunting, make sure your online and offline platforms are primed and ready to reinforce your credentials and make every first impression count:

1. Leverage your LinkedIn profile

If you’re in the job market, positioning and marketing yourself well on LinkedIn is important. Before roles are even advertised, recruiters, search agents and employers will use LinkedIn to identify potentially suitable candidates - and of course, it’s the first place they’ll look after receiving your resume.

At the top of your profile, the Summary section is the first thing recruiters will read about you. Like the cover letter to a resume, it needs to immediately engage the reader and position you well for the type of role you seek. Take your time to craft this and include keywords as these will help you show-up in recruitment searches.

Other must-haves for your LinkedIn profile include a professional headshot, a concise Headline (with keywords), accurate Job Titles and an outline of every role you’ve held over the last decade - ideally with keywords and details that highlight the scope and scale of your responsibility and achievements. Also include an abbreviated summary of your earlier career and provide details of your education, professional memberships, awards and endorsements in the appropriate sections.

PS: Before making any changes to your LinkedIn profile, check and adjust your Activity settings to ensure the updates you’re making are not being broadcast. When you’re ready, remember to turn on the Open to Opportunities indicator too.

2. Establish an early rapport with the recruiter

As your job hunt progresses, you’ll come across advertisements for roles that seem to have what you’re looking for - but the first step is not to send out your resume.

Before submitting your application, do your best to speak directly to the recruiter involved, request a job description (if available) and ask questions about the role. You’re looking here for insights that will help you understand if the role is right for you and also help you tailor an application.

Do this quickly, as time is usually of the essence, and keep your conversation with the recruiter short, sweet and focused on the role. This is not the time to sell yourself, but it is an opportunity to develop a personal rapport with the recruiter ahead of submitting your application.

3. Repurpose and optimise your resume

With every role you apply for, it’s important to remember that your recruiter will be receiving a large number of resumes. When shortlisting, it’s their job to try and find a needle in a haystack - which means it’s your job to stand out. Repurposing and optimising your resume to ensure it’s tweaked and tailored to each role you apply for is critical, and there are a number of ways you can do this:

  • Summarise your skills and experience upfront with short bullet points that relate directly to the key requirements of the role. Ideally incorporate language the recruiter has used in the job advertisement for faster recognition that you have exactly what they’re looking for.

  • Provide an at-a-glance overview of your career history and then key details for each role you’ve held over the last 10 years, similar to your LinkedIn profile. Where possible, quantify and illustrate your key achievements further with data and information that proves your ability to meet the demands of the role you seek.

  • Along with reference to your education, qualifications and any relevant awards, briefly list any further education or professional development you’ve undertaken over the years. Evidence of continuous learning shows that you’ve expanded your mindset and skillset to complement on-the-job experience.

  • Also note any Board appointments, professional memberships, industry projects or significant community activities you’ve been involved in. This adds another dimension to your resume and shows an ability to contribute beyond the role.

  • Finally, ensure your resume reflects the level of professionalism you bring to your role. It should be thoroughly proofread and set out in a contemporary way that makes it attractive and easy to read and glean information from quickly.


4. Deliver a pitch-perfect cover letter

Your cover letter is not just important, it’s essential. This is your opportunity to speak directly to the person with the power to shortlist you for the role you seek.

To make the most of that opportunity, you need to capture their attention with an introductory paragraph that provides a snapshot of your key credentials for the role. Like a journalist, you need to deliver the key takeouts from your story upfront.

Follow this up with two or three short paragraphs showcasing how your skills and experience are ideally suited to the role - again taking your cue from the job ad and your conversation with the recruiter. Try to include in each paragraph a relevant achievement as this builds your track record and reinforces your credibility.

Conclude this one-page letter by expressing a personal connection to the work you do, your profession or industry - and link that to your enthusiasm for the role you’re seeking. Also recognise ambitions the employer has for their team and brand and reassert your ability to contribute positively to their culture and business goals.

5. Ensure you’re well represented

Whilst the mechanics of the recruitment process itself are largely beyond your control as a candidate, you still want the best people representing you - so don’t be afraid to qualify the recruiters you’ve been in contact with.

If you’ve followed our earlier steps, you’ll likely have spoken to them by phone before sending in your cover letter and resume - and if they’re interested in representing you, they’ll soon make contact to discuss your resume and request permission to pass it onto their client.

This is your opportunity to ask more questions about the role, the employer and the process - and to gauge from their responses how well they know their client’s organisation and the key people in it. Before you agree to progress, satisfy yourself that they’re a trusted advisor to the client and can represent you well at the right level.

6. Work with the process like a pro

Always be responsive, available and professional at every stage of the recruitment process. A candidate who responds promptly to requests for more information, prepares well for every interaction, has a positive approach to testing and makes themselves available is much more likely to succeed.

Likewise, you should expect the same standards from your recruiter. A professional recruiter will promptly acknowledge receipt of your resume, give you some idea of the recruitment process and manage your expectations in terms of when you can expect to hear back from them with an update on your status. Radio silence from your recruiter is never acceptable so if you don’t get a response within the time indicated, call and request an update. Remember, knowing where you stand on one role can help you move forward on another - so make the call, and move on.

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Suzanne O’Leary / Director - Recruitment Advisor
Connect with Suzanne here.

© 2018 January Group Limited


Candidates ... does your recruiter care?
By Suzanne O'Leary

For many of us, the pursuit of a new-and-improved career opportunity is a bit of a rollercoaster ride, with some highs and some lows along the way.

Whilst riding the recruitment rollercoaster isn’t always easy, you can stay on track and navigate any plateaus and potential pitfalls by working proactively with a professional recruiter who can genuinely help facilitate your journey.

A recruiter who knows you is able to offer personalised advice on new opportunities - ensuring you’re genuinely well-matched to every role you pursue and always able to articulate your unique competitive advantage to the hiring team. They’ll also help you evaluate each new role in the context of a longer-term career path to ensure you’re getting maximum CV value. And if they’re a search agent as well, you’ll be on their radar for future opportunities that don’t always hit the mainstream.

That said, as a candidate you don’t control who you get to work with on a particular role - that’s determined by the employer. But what you can do is learn to identify the hallmarks of a candidate-centric recruiter and use these to hold every recruiter to account and ensure they’re giving you the best chance of securing your ideal role.

My advice:

You can tell how much your recruiter cares by what they do. Here are our top tips for ensuring every recruiter you work with is adding-value to your journey.

A recruiter who cares ... listens carefully and adds-value

Nobody’s thought more about your career than you, so it’s important your recruiter listens carefully to your ideas about what a good next move would be and asks questions to ensure they fully appreciate what you’re looking for in a new role and employer. This is the key to your recruiter identifying ideal opportunities for you.

If they have current, relevant and specialist knowledge of your sector, skills and profession - they should be able to add-value to your ideas and provide a realistic employment market perspective that will help steer you in the right direction.

A recruiter who cares ... positions you thoughtfully

The kind of relationship your recruiter has with the hiring manager and organisation is important - particularly at the initial stage of a recruitment process, where your credibility as a candidate is enhanced by your recruiter’s authority with the client.

A trusted adviser will know the hiring organisation’s structure and culture well and be able to introduce you to the right person at the right level. They’ll understand what a client’s looking for (beyond the brief) and be able to position you accordingly.

A recruiter who cares ... makes sure you look good

Before you can speak for yourself, it’s your CV that’ll speak for you - but will it make the right first impression? Compared to other candidates, will your CV stack up and stand out for all the right reasons?

Your recruiter knows what a great CV looks like and also what the hiring manager is looking for in order to shortlist candidates. They should be giving you examples of best practice CVs and advising you how to purposefully construct yours to highlight your most relevant experience, skills and achievements for the role you’re seeking.

A recruiter who cares ... helps you put your best foot forward

At the interview stage, it’s your recruiter’s job to ensure you’re well prepared to meet the hiring team. They should be telling you what to expect during your interview - how many people will be there, who they are within the organisation, what the format of the interview will be, what type of questions to expect and to ask.

It’s also their job to help you put your best foot forward. You should walk into your interview knowing something about the personalities and priorities of every person in the room and how best to emphasise your unique strengths in relation to the role. You should also be prepared to discuss and mitigate any key weaknesses.

A recruiter who cares ... communicates openly and often

Within 24-48 hours of an interview, you should expect a call from your recruiter to debrief with you and provide feedback from the hiring team.

You should be given an opportunity to say how you think the interview went and what you liked or didn’t like about the role and also to ask any questions you’ve since thought of. At the same time, your recruiter should be giving you robust, sincere and meaningful feedback about how you performed in the interview, the initial impression you’ve made with the hiring team and what you need to think about going forward.

Beyond that, even when they have no news to report your recruiter should be checking in with you on a regular basis and following up on any questions you have.

A recruiter who cares ... tells the whole truth

When the stakes are this high, there’s nothing worse than radio silence from your recruiter. In person, most of us know when we’re quietly being given the brush off. So, with a recruitment process happening at arms length, how do you know if your recruiter’s telling you everything you need to know?

Do they still believe you can stretch to that role or just not willing to tell you what you don’t want to hear? Has your CV let you down? Did your interview go as well as you thought? Are your expectations too high or too low? Are they genuinely unable to provide an update or just buying time for other candidates?

A recruiter who really cares about you and your career doesn’t shield you from the truth. They tell it like it is and help you do what it takes to get where you want to go.

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Suzanne O’Leary / Director - Recruitment Advisor
Connect with Suzanne here.

© 2018 January Group Limited


Great process ... great outcome
By Suzanne O'Leary

The anatomy of a winning recruitment process.

If there’s one way good recruitment can suddenly go bad, it’s process.

Guiding multiple parties through a personal and increasingly high-stakes journey over weeks and months is not without many twists and turns, all of which have to be carefully navigated. And that’s before you factor in external forces like competition for candidates. What could go wrong along the way, you ask? Plenty.

It’s what goes right that counts - and that’s where a quality process comes in.

From the moment you brief a job to the moment you receive a signed contract, you have an opportunity to rise above the competition, both as a brand and as a potential employer. A well-designed and implemented recruitment process will help you do that by identifying your best-fit candidates early, delivering an added-value experience at every stage and nurturing a positive relationship with your preferred candidates.

So here’s our guide to designing a winning recruitment process for your brand:

Phase 1: Put your Shortlist on a short leash

In the briefing-to-shortlist phase of recruitment, the key to success is precision. So before you handover the brief, make sure your recruiter maps out a precise strategy to get you exactly what you want - a short list of the highest-quality, best-fit candidates available that is also inclusive and diverse.

So - how to ensure you’re not short-changed.

Your recruiter should be able to map out all the steps they’ll take to seek out, identify, engage, assess and qualify potential candidates for your shortlist. Any criteria and methods for filtering candidates in and out along the way should be transparent and agreed. The timeframe for delivering a qualified shortlist and deciding who to interview should be locked-in upfront.

Phase 2: Turn your Interviews into real reviews

Well-briefed candidates are well-prepared candidates that can turn up and put their best foot forward, which is exactly what everyone wants. Interviews and evaluations are not about disqualifying candidates (that should happen at the shortlist stage), they’re about giving candidates a platform to show you who they are and what they can do. Encouraging this mindset is key as even senior candidates can get nervous.

But it doesn’t stop there. Within 24 hours of an interview, your recruiter should have debriefed with both yourself and your candidate. After speaking with you, they should provide your candidate with honest, detailed and useful feedback that will help them going forward - irrespective of their status in your process.

Likewise, honest insights about a candidate’s interview experience, their level of motivation and interest in the role and any brand or employment questions raised will guide and add-value to both your current process and future recruitment.

Phase 3: Raise the standard of your References

An authentic, balanced, accurate and insightful assessment of the person you want to employ from people they’ve worked with before is absolutely essential. You will not get that with the typical phone-a-friend approach to reference checks - that’s why a quality-controlled process is critical.

It starts with your recruiter working closely with your candidate to identify relevant, job-related referees and then contacting each to seek informed and meaningful responses to pertinent competency and character questions. A verbatim transcript of each referee call will also allow you to experience the full discussion for yourself.

Phase 4: Get ready to Sign, Seal, Deliver

And finally, we come to the last step in your recruitment process - the offer.

In my experience, putting together an offer that’s a fair reflection of the market and works for both parties first time around is manageable - assuming your recruiter has benchmarked the role accurately and managed expectations well. However, if competition for your candidate remains tight, you may need to re-evaluate the overall package to reflect the market.

Your recruiter can help by identifying variations they believe will appeal - such as professional development opportunities or flexible/remote working options or a sign-on bonus. The key to securing each candidate will be different but a win/win solution should be possible with some lateral thinking and honest advice.

Once you reach an agreement, the rubber needs to hit the road very quickly. Getting an accurate and detailed contract prepared and out immediately enhances your employment brand and should be followed-up smartly by your recruiter. It’s their job to answer candidate queries promptly and to stay on-task until the ink is well and truly dry and your on-boarding team are ready to take over the reigns.

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Suzanne O’Leary / Director - Recruitment Advisor
Connect with Suzanne here.

© 2018 January Group Limited


Trusted Adviser
By Suzanne O'Leary

How to avoid the recruitment-by-numbers trap.

Having a network of recruiters ready to fill your role always seems like a good idea - until you start seeing the CVs coming through.

What may initially be gained in volume is later lost in quality - and that’s no real surprise. Recruiters engaged in transactional role-filling are short-term focused and can be tempted to play the recruitment-by-numbers game, at your expense.

Insufficient skill vetting and minimal assessment of fit, style and motivation can also lead to well-matched candidates getting lost in the crowd and misaligned candidates unwittingly just making up the numbers - a lose/lose situation for all concerned and for your employment brand.

But the risk and cost of this transactional approach to recruitment is most noticeable in the senior ranks, where securing the very best people from a typically limited pool of candidates has never been a numbers game.

High quality candidates at this level know who they are, they know the value of their skills and experience and they’re looking for the right opportunities. At the senior end of town, it’s not just who your recruiter knows - it’s how well they know them.

My Advice

Beware of spreading your network too thin. Here’s how to know if your recruitment partner is a CV-flicker or the trusted adviser your brand deserves:

A trusted adviser … knows you so well

To gauge how well your recruitment partner knows you, just ask yourself a few key questions. Do they understand your brand vision, strategy and growth plans well enough to anticipate your recruitment needs? Do they know your core values and team culture so well they can quickly identify which candidates will fit into your business? Have they taken the time to visit your premises or meet key people in your team? Are they talking regularly with your hiring managers?

A trusted adviser is with you for the long-haul. They know your brand and your business inside-out and because of that are able to add value beyond filling the role in front of them. Their strong relationships with your hiring managers will serve you well and ensure that everyone involved in your recruitment is on the same page.

A trusted adviser … is a matchmaker, not a speed-dater

Speed dating is a great way to meet a lot of people in a short period of time without getting to know any of them well. Your CV-flicking recruiter is a speed-dater. They’re happy to send you CVs of all the people they’ve ever met - and let you do the hard work.

Your trusted adviser, on the other hand, is a matchmaker and will leave no stone unturned. They’re looking for that special someone who’s the best fit for you, your business, your team and the role. By the time they’ve finished vetting candidates, they’ll know who can do the job, how well they would fit with your team and what makes them a standout. Expect a written report.

A trusted adviser … has a good read of the market

Some roles are more difficult to fill than others. If you don’t find your ideal candidate first time around, it’s your recruiter’s job to generate more options. As well as knowing where to search for additional candidates, a trusted adviser will work laterally to identify a-typical prospects who may not fit the profile but still have the transferable skills and experience to meet the demands of your role.

In a very tight, competitive market, the challenge is different but no less daunting. Candidates on your wishlist may have wishes of their own around remuneration or hours or other employment conditions. That’s when honest, accurate market insight from a trusted adviser gives you the best chance of getting a candidate you want while still negotiating terms that are fair and reasonable for both parties.

... ... ...

Suzanne O’Leary / Director - Recruitment Advisor
Connect with Suzanne here.

© 2018 January Group Limited


Brand Care
By Suzanne O'Leary

How to know if your recruiter is good for your brand.

To be at your best, you need the best people. But securing them isn’t always easy.

The best people in your industry are already in demand and firmly in the sights of your competitors. They already have jobs and colleagues and employers who will work hard to keep them. And if they’re serious about moving on, they could have multiple new job opportunities on the table at any one time.

The key, in this high-stakes contest for talent, is to focus on what you can control. Top of your list should be ensuring that your recruitment process translates into a positive experience for every candidate every step of the way. Recruitment, after all, is a first impressions business.

This is when a search or recruitment partner can make a big difference - but only if they run a caring, disciplined process and work proactively to promote and protect your employment brand. No matter what comes up along the way, it’s their job to deliver an experience your brand can be proud of.

My Advice

Ask not what you can do for your recruiter - but what they can do for you. Here’s how to know if your recruitment partner has the goods:

A good recruiter … asks the right questions

Think of it like this. Would you send a press release out to a journalist, expect them to take everything in it at face value, not fact-check, not ask any questions and then publish it verbatim?

Like a good journalist, a good recruiter is thinking about the audience and will dig to find out more about the position and your business. They’ll want to know what makes this role important, where it fits into the bigger picture and how it makes a difference. They’ll want the inside scoop on what it’s like to work with you and what you have to offer that’s different, better and special. They’ll need to answer the question every candidate has - how is this role going to enhance my CV?

A good recruiter … is a myth-buster

In a small market like New Zealand, it’s likely that candidates will come into the recruitment process already knowing something about your brand. Even if they don’t, it’s not hard to find someone who knows someone who worked there once.

That’s all great - until something gets lost in translation. Identifying and dispelling any harmful myths and legends that exist around your employment brand is essential. A good recruiter will do that on your behalf.

A good recruiter … treats your candidates well

For candidates, the recruitment process can be long and sometimes stressful. So a recruitment partner that does all the little things right makes a really big difference.

Returning phone calls, answering questions, providing updates, giving timely feedback, explaining decisions, offering helpful advice. In a well-managed recruitment process, every single candidate is treated with respect and care and given the feedback and guidance they need to succeed. Because of this, whatever the outcome, they’ll all be left with a positive impression of your brand.

... ... ...

Suzanne O’Leary / Director - Recruitment Advisor
Connect with Suzanne here.

© 2018 January Group Limited


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