Becoming a Linchpin: A Job Seekers Guide to being the Ideal Candidate
Written by: Hayley Miller; Editor & Co-Author: Rod McDermott
One of the most common and mystifying questions job seekers ask is “what exactly do companies look for in a candidate?” In recent years, individuals face a challenging and complicated job search path that differs greatly from previous generations. As companies begin to utilize social media as a key recruiting tool, a resume and cover letter are no longer sufficient illustrations of your career experience. Rather than viewing the new job search method as challenging, individuals should strive to capitalize on it. While the search process may have evolved, companies still seek the same characteristics in a candidate and social media allows a platform to express those traits. In order to become the ideal candidate, however, one must first understand what clients seek, particularly in a slow growing economy.
No matter the industry or function of a company, all for-profit organizations have the same goal: improve top line growth and ensure the bottom line is healthy. While the economy has improved since the 2008 crisis, its growth is slow, thus leaving companies with the question of how to develop their business more effectively in a somewhat stagnant financial environment. The solution is fairly straightforward: consistently grow revenue while reducing expenses. Unfortunately, achieving this solution is much easier said than done. This is where you have the opportunity to differentiate yourself as an essential individual to the company.
On his personal blog, Rod McDermott wrote about the importance of being a linchpin in your company. Linchpins bring their best skills to the table and perform at a high level, without ever being asked to do so. Do you perform the minimum of what is requested at your role? Do you accept your responsibilities begrudgingly? Or, do you go above and beyond to solve problems, even if they are not specifically listed in your job description? Companies seek these driven, motivated individuals at all levels who can help the organization achieve growth without the need of handholding. Companies seek linchpins, which is why it’s crucial to present yourself as such not only when you are currently working, but also while in the midst of your job search.
Perhaps the biggest mistake a candidate can make when applying for a position is labeling oneself as a job seeker. As a recruiter, I come across over a hundred profiles per day, yet only a handful stand out to me. Why? These select few candidates choose to position themselves as problem solvers rather than job seekers. Many individuals will merely list job responsibilities on their resume and social media profiles, but what companies find most attractive are stories. Organizations want to see descriptions of how you have improved top line growth and kept a healthy bottom line at previous companies. How have you achieved success in the past? Is it your motivation, professional network, experience? How did you recently reduce expenses and grow revenue? Companies want to hear about these achievements and how you attained them. While this may seem difficult to include all on your resume, you can utilize social media to paint your entire professional story. Social media profiles give you the opportunity to share links to successful projects and elaborate on any experience you could not list in your resume. By presenting yourself on both social media and job applications as a solution maker rather than a job seeker, you become the linchpin that a company desires.
The job search can be stressful and overwhelming, but once you begin to depict yourself as a candidate with a long history of professional success, the path will seem quite straightforward. Results, not responsibilities, are the most important thing to a company. Show off your pro-active problem solving capabilities and your success stories. Demonstrate that you are a linchpin and you will no longer be asking the question “what do companies desire?” but rather, “what do I desire from my next company?” Become a linchpin and the ball is in your court.
The MB Interim Leaders Solution
By: Rod McDermott & Hayley Miller
How often do you hear the warning, “always be prepared for the worst case scenario”? This cautionary phrase is much easier said than done, especially for businesses. Every company strives to assess their potential risks and determine solutions, however no company can prepare for every issue. Unexpected turbulence will inevitably occur, leaving stakeholders, shareholders, and board members ill prepared in finding a solution. Perhaps the most critical problem a business encounters is weak executive leadership during an unstable period. Many companies face a roadblock when they cannot afford to hire full time executives, yet they have a dire issue that needs to be solved, such as a merger, acquisition, divestiture, growth, integration, or turnaround. This is where interim executives play a critical role.
Interim executive leadership firms have gained recognition in the past decade, garnering support from businesses that have achieved success by placing an interim executive at their company. It is important to note that in the interim executive space, choosing the correct executive search firm is even more crucial, as companies require quick placement and exceptionally skilled executives in order to effectively solve their problem. MB Interim Leaders, a McDermott & Bull Executive Search Company, helps make that choice simple.
Founded in 2011, MB Interim Leaders (MBIL) discovered a need in the marketplace for clients who had an urgent requirement, however could not hire full time executives to solve the issue. MB Interim Leaders are proficient in efficiently run, well-managed companies that need to fill a gap in their business. The firm is also effective with turnarounds, having achieved success for numerous clients in a variety of industries. One recent case in particular accurately reflects MBIL’s proven methodology in hiring and placing interim leaders for turnaround projects and consistently achieving positive results.
Rebecca Miller, Director of Business Development, received a phone call from a client who faced operating challenges and was seeking a CEO to support and repair major issues at one of their facilities. Rebecca honed in on the key attributes the company was looking for in a CEO including specific industry experience and a track record of effectively restructuring and stabilizing businesses. With the aid of Angela Anderson, Director of Talent Acquisition, MB Interim Leaders found the ideal Interim CEO within one day of receiving the call. After a mere ninety days, the CEO managed to solve their most critical problems and the client requested he transfer to another location to accomplish a supply chain and quality turnaround. Due to the quick response time and successful placement at the highest level, the client requested that MB Interim Leaders build out an entire team of operating executives including supply chain, production management, quality, and a number of other operating roles. Since placing the Interim CEO and operating executives, the client has achieved a substantial turnaround at their facilities.
What differentiates McDermott & Bull from other executive search firms and MBIL from other interim leadership firms? Why can they succeed where other firms cannot? The answer lies in McDermott & Bull’s unique model. Rather than splitting resources from McDermott & Bull’s Retained Executive Search business, Rod McDermott chose to create a separate entity entirely devoted to Interim Executive Leadership. In doing so, MBIL’s founders are able to remain heavily involved and active in daily client interactions and searches. Clients receive regular contact and feedback from MBIL’s highest executives, thus reassuring clients that their search is in qualified and experienced hands. Additionally, by focusing entirely on interim positions, it allows for a quick response with quality candidates in a normally niche market. The client’s needs are always first and no position is too difficult to fill.
Lastly, MBIL utilizes its other divisions of McDermott & Bull in order to best succeed. McDermott & Bull’s Executive Network currently has 7,000 members and 1,800 active members who regularly attend monthly McDermott & Bull networking events. These executives range from Senior Directors to CEOs who previously worked at Fortune 1000 companies. By consistently remaining in close contact with these C-Level Executives, it allows MBIL to easily match skilled executives with new client projects quickly. Through a hands-on approach from executive management, efficient recruitment, and networking capabilities MBIL achieves the results clients ideally seek, but didn’t know were achievable.
MB Interim Leaders has experience in a variety of functions and industries. Most notably, MBIL has placed leaders in private equity, venture capital, consumer goods/ products, manufacturing, consumer packaged goods, healthcare/ health services, food, beverage and restaurants, aviation and aerospace, and technology. MBIL is well versed in placing candidates in a variety of functions including executive leadership and strategy, finance/ accounting, operations, supply chain logistics, information technology, human resources, and sales and marketing. To learn more about what MB Interim Leaders has to offer, please visit www.mbinterim.com
New Year, New Role? Eight Items to Consider When Contemplating a Career Change
By: Rod McDermott & Hayley Miller
Now that we’ve entered into February, our New Year’s resolutions have begun to waver and our life and career goals have started to take a backseat to our day-to-day responsibilities. That’s why now is an important time to reflect on your career satisfaction. Whether or not you’re having concerns about your job, it is essential to reflect on your employment to ensure you are truly satisfied with your role. Below are eight items to consider when you are analyzing your level of job satisfaction and considering making a move.
- Contribution to the company
At the executive level, it’s even more important to assess your individual level of contribution to the company. Do you feel that you are making a significant impact in your role? If not, it’s key to focus on why. Are you making an active effort to consistently propose new concepts and ways for the company to improve? Are these concepts being heard and/or implemented? If they’re not, it may be time to consider if another company would be more receptive to your ideas.
According to the recent 2015 SHRM Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report, financial compensation has been one of the top contributors to job satisfaction since 2002 (SHRM, 2015). As an executive, it’s essential to know where you stand in relation to other executives in your field. How does your pay compensation relate in comparison to those around you? If you feel you are not being fairly compensated, approach your board members/ stakeholders with why you believe you should be granted a pay increase. If they’re not responsive, that’s a key indicator that your company may not be the best fit for you.
- Relationships with direct supervisor and reports
Work relationships, including your connection with your direct supervisor and reports, are a large contributing factor to job satisfaction. When analyzing your relationships with your reports, take a moment for self-reflection. If you’re not receiving the results you would like from your team, ask yourself (and more importantly, ask your reports!) what you can do to improve. Positive and respectful treatment in the workplace was the #1 important factor for job satisfaction for all employees in 2014. As an executive, not only do you need to both garner and show respect to your team, you also need respect from board members and stakeholders. If you find yourself in a situation where you regularly feel that your opinions are disregarded, a conversation needs to be had.
- Job security
Another top contributing factor to job satisfaction is job security. As an executive, it’s important to feel confident in your position, as that gives one the confidence to make key decisions for the future of the company. Have you had the opportunity to speak with decision makers about the status of the company and its direction? Where does the company stand financially? Clear expectations can help you make the best decision as to whether you need to make a career change.
- Respect for thoughts and ideas
In a similar vein to having respectful relationships with your direct supervisors, it is critical that your stakeholders and board members respect your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas. As an executive, in order for you to succeed in making a positive and significant impact, the leaders of the company need to trust in your decision-making skills and allow you to put your thoughts into action. A lack of support from stakeholders and board members is a red flag that you will not be able to successfully achieve the job you were hired to do.
- Clear direction and goals from shareholders and board members
Have the board of directors and shareholders made the direction of the company and their goals clear? In your role, it’s your goal to ensure that management and employees know the specific direction of the company. Make sure you know exactly what path the company would like to take so you can clarify it to your employees and effectively execute the strategy.
- Job expectations
Oftentimes, the role you were hired for ends up not being the role you’re currently in or the position you originally sought. You were hired due to your specific and unique skillset and exemplary leadership ability. Are you utilizing your skills? Has the job description changed negatively from when you first joined the company? If you’re not utilizing the skills you had hoped and the company will not allow you to do so, finding a company and role that matches your expectations is worth considering.
Benefits have long been correlated with a high level of job satisfaction. While health benefits and a healthy work-life balance are very important for all employees, executives also have specific benefits that are key to career gratification. For C-Level executives, offerings such as a flexible schedule and professional/career development benefits are of particular importance. A company that doesn’t offer networking opportunities, a path for professional development, or the freedom to pursue individual professional interests will significantly decrease your level of satisfaction.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is having expectations match reality. Take time to focus on whether your job is truly the one you originally desired. It’s easy to become bogged-down with daily responsibilities, so much so that you forget what you originally sought. What do you want out of your job? What will bring you the most job satisfaction?
How to Master a Skype Interview
Posted by Rod McDermott & Jared Moriarty
For one, our firm’s new Associate Principal Consultant that I work closely with, Jared Moriarty, and I will now be contributing to this blog together. McDermott & Bull has been growing and is now one of the largest retained search firms in Southern California, and we are continuing to do more and more work on the national level.
As you can imagine, with more searches happening all over the country, coordinating interviews with candidates has become a greater challenge. However, we make a commitment to our clients to put eyes on every candidate and there is no way we would ever submit a candidate without doing some type of in-person interview. So now, instead of constantly hopping on planes and traveling all over the country to meet with every candidate, we have been using Skype a lot more for first round interviews. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve often wondered the connection between our people loving their jobs and the level of service they provide to the candidates they come in touch with throughout their days, and the clients we serve on executive search assignments at McDermott & Bull and MB Interim Leaders. I know there have been many articles written about job satisfaction, relationships with fellow employees, and service levels delivered by happy employees having fun at their jobs. I’ve often wondered how variations in leadership style affects this type of customer experience.
I know that’s a particularly cryptic title for a blog, but hopefully it makes you want to read more. I do think it’s appropriate for the topic.
I’ve heard this too often lately, and witnessed some of it myself in my interviews with candidates. Brandon Barrett, our Director of Business Development for our MB Interim Leaders business unit, and I recently called on a human resources executive at a major Southern California company (major for SoCal is revenue north of a billion). This particular executive happens to be an old friend – someone I’ve worked with personally and through our firm at 3 different companies over the past 14 years. She’s one of my favorites!
It’s 2pm and I’ve been sitting at Jury Duty since 7:45 this morning, with a break for lunch. Lots of time to catch up on emails, and to think about an impactful blog.
I just received an email from a former employee asking me to take a reference call from a potential future employer. Writers block solved!
I’ve blogged about this before, but it’s probably worth repeating. References can be job winners or job killers. Often, it can be the “back channel reference” – the one the employee didn’t give but where the potential employer knows people that worked with the candidate – that makes an impact. Rather than call references that should be well-versed in singing the candidate’s praises, including not being able to think of a single weakness other than the employee works too hard or really takes his or her job extremely seriously, the back channel reference is a confidential outreach to a co-worker or former supervisor that the job candidate didn’t give their prospective employer. We all know people, and if we can get the real skinny on someone without the concerns of having it sugar-coated, we have a better shot of making the right hire choice.
After I read the book “The Dream Manager”, besides considering how I might incorporate some of the concepts in my business with my employees, I also realized that I was at risk of not living or reaching some of my own dreams. My wife, Laura, also read the book and we both started dream journals and scribbled down about 60 dreams that we had, in many different categories including spiritual, adventure, financial, legacy, physical, hobby, etc. One of mine that I had talked about with a good buddy, who is also a pilot, for about 20 years, was flying our planes across the country. I’ve put it off for years because it was about a 2 week trip and would be too big a burden on my family to be gone that long. Well, one of my wife’s was to spend 2 weeks with her elderly grandmother, who at the time was 94 years old and living in Buffalo. My wife grew up in California and only ever spent about a week a summer in Buffalo with her grandmother growing up and really enjoyed her time but it would be over too soon.
Way back in 2008, a recent grad from Vanguard University, Kelsey Richards, joined McDermott & Bull Executive Search as a Program Coordinator for the McDermott & Bull Executive Network. At the time she joined us, we had a discussion about her upbringing and she shared with me that her parents owned a chain of McDonald’s restaurants. They employed quite a few people in some very busy stores. Further, she shared that she grew up learning about business at home, at the dinner table, on weekends, and in car rides as her parents were entrepreneurs and were very focused on their business.
I asked her if she read any good business books lately and she mentioned “The Dream Manager” as one that her parents suggested she read and it was quite impactful. Always looking for a good book myself, and an easy read (it’s about a 2 hour read), I picked up a copy over Labor Day weekend that year and couldn’t put it down. In fact, I left our hotel in Lake Arrowhead before dawn and went to Starbucks to read, and didn’t come back until I finished. What a great book!
How do you attract stars to your organization? What tools do you give your A-players to help them succeed? A good business will provide their stars with the ammunition they need to win. Often times, we are focused on the dollar signs as a way to attract the best in the business. But the players we really want are not only attracted to the potential income – they also want to win, and win often! The ability to feel like a winner is what will keep those A-players working for you. So, what ammunition are you providing to help your key people win as often as possible, and to attract other winners?
Ammunition can come in many forms – brand strength, quality of products/service, quality of systems and back office, and quality of management, just to name a few. Having a competitive advantage is what A-players seek in an employer. If you can’t answer the question – “What makes you better than your competition?” – you haven’t created enough ammunition for those A-players to join you. Being better, doesn’t only mean in the market with your customers. It can also refer to how well you develop your people, how well you partner with your suppliers to innovate better than the others, and even what the culture of the company is like.