August 20, 2013
Posted by Joan V. Gallos
Preparation is important for successfully working with a search firm. That includes a strong, updated vita that shows your experience, skills, main accomplishments, and demonstrated results across a range of positions.
Preparation also means helping someone who knows nothing about you to understand what that vita means to (and about) you, your past institutions, and your potential new employer. You do that by preparing a clear and compelling career narrative about what you have done and how that illustrates key strengths and accomplishments. Use the arc of your story to make sure you introduce issues, establish context, and emphasize experiences of which you are proud. Having your story prepared also helps you answer, with poise, open ended questions like, “tell me about yourself.”
A good, clear storyline quickly conveys a full and accurate portrait of your accomplishments and potential. It is also more memorable than a list of jobs and positions. The search consultant will have studied your vita before you meet or talk via phone (or will have been updated by someone who has). It’s up to you to bring that vita to life: convey who you are, what makes you tick, and what you do best.
It’s tempting when working with a search firm to only discuss your strengths. Certainly you want to begin there and demonstrate how past experiences have built the skills and strengths relevant to the job you seek. But don’t stop there – unless your flat side or things you dislike aren’t relevant to the work you are exploring (or you want to talk yourself into a job that may not be right for your experience, interests, or temperament).
Working successfully with a search consultant is not a simple selling contest. It’s developing a relationship of mutual trust that benefits your both. For that, you will want to find an opportunity to identify new areas that you are excited to master or discuss your confidence in tackling new areas of interest or responsibility.
Job searches are all about fit: finding the place that values and uses the skills, talents, and experiences that you bring. Search consultants seek to identify that “fit” as well: they succeed when they find individuals who can and will succeed in the job (or they will have to redo the search for their client at their own expense).
Not all jobs and organizations are created equal: the work and work life that goes with a titled position in one institution can be very different from that at another. Jobs that look perfect on the surface may come with unusual expectations, complex histories, or organizational cultures that are incompatible with your values and preferences. A good relationship with a search firm can help you find that out – and give you to confidence to say no to offers that are less than perfect because a better one is just around the corner.