My first title for this column was "Predator vs. Prey," but I changed it. Sensitivity, and all that.
This is a very serious subject, but I'll be quick with it. Do you want to eat lunch, or are you the main course? I have thought about this a lot. In 25+ years as a job hunting coach and author, I have spoken to thousands of job hunting executives, managers, and professionals. That's a very substantial number "herd."
Actually, there is an important measure of safety in the herd strategy--Think of the herd of gazelle on the savannah: The lion can't penetrate the wall of hundreds of hooves (gazelle have sharp hooves, right?). Instead, the lion's meal depends upon separating a slow one--young, old, injured, etc.--from the group. Safety in numbers, and so forth. Schools of fish, flocks of birds, swarms of insects all fit the model.
The "herd" strategy doesn't work well for job hunting senior executives, though. Blending in is a losing strategy--Standing out from the crowd is the winning strategy. The $64,000 (or maybe $million?) question is how to do that best.
It seems to me that "traditional" job hunting strategies--especially "cover" letters with resumes (I don't think how the letter is delivered--email or hard copy--matters much, although I always ask "What does a CEO call spam?" Answer: Spam)--places executives securely into the herd (school, flock, swarm) mode. "Over-the-top" strategies--courier delivered DVDs, etc. (believe it or not, some "experts" recommend "breakout" strategies like this. How about a fruit basket, too?)--would likely work...but in reverse.
I've given this much thought and haven't been able to improve on--
--An interesting and professional letter (no resume) on the first contact, and
--Intense interview preparation for the first telephone call.
Why are these two steps so important? This is where the greatest degree of screening takes place. If you survive both, your chances go up drastically--
--If you write a crappy letter (and include a resume with it), it will fail (HR gets it or the headhunter rejects it). If you write a good one, 1% (plus/minus) will hit (get you a headhunter/CEO call). That's a winning strategy.
--If you aren't prepared for the interview (and that first call is an interview, make no mistake about it), you won't survive the call. With preparation (identifying the likely questions and rehearsing/reciting your answers), you can increase your chances to about a 25% survival rate. That's also a winning strategy.
Eat or be eaten. I hope this was useful.
Kenneth J. Cole
Executive Search Consultant
P.O. Box 9433
Panama City Beach, FL 32417
P.S. Please keep the questions coming. As usual, please forward this email to your job hunting colleagues and networking groups. If you receive a forwarded copy, please email me to be placed on the email list.