The main part of our business as recruiters consists in being mandated by client organizations of diverse sizes and sectors to:
1/ Understand as best as we can their structure, strategy and issues,
A lesser known part of our work is to interview, without a specific client mandate, a great variety of people expecting new developments in their career, either leaving their current position or being currently out of a job.
These interviews have no short term goal, they are simply meant to get to know the person, which may possibly lead, in the future, to collaborate on an eventual opportunity. But the primary objective of these meetings is to provide people with advice on the way they present in interviews (is their pitch enough structured, clear, impactful?) and on their CV (does it actually reflect their background, personality and expectations? Is it sufficiently synthetic yet complete?).
Before meeting these people who are not actual candidates yet, without a direct business motive – as there is no client mandate, and no paid service to the person either–, let's admit that we are a bit nervous somehow. Maybe even more stressed than when we interview for an assignment, when we have clear directives, a job description with a precise set of skills as a check list.
Our recurring question is the following: "What on earth can I deliver to this person, a senior executive with weathered experience, in roles with high responsibilities?". And most of the times we realize that, in spite of our original unease, the people we interview leave our offices rather satisfied, and even cheerful, relieved, reinvigorated, or enthusiastic!
On our side, we close the interview being truly delighted to be at the heart of the human dimension of our profession. A shame that we cannot spend too much time in such interviews: Our clients come first! Then again these occasional parenthesis are useful as they refocus us on important questions.
Why is it that people leave such meetings "boosted" again?
Firstly, during such interviews, people have a chance to talk about themselves, review their career, reflect on their skills and motivations, in a professional yet relaxed discussion. We are not in an annual review, there is no salary raise or career advancement at stake; we are not assessing them, we are analyzing, with them, their career path. No stress involved in this exchange. A parenthesis, aside of daily business, that allows spontaneity, freedom and authenticity.
Then of course we broaden their horizons with our vision of the market trends, the difficulties of our work, the increasing complexity of the decision process, etc. Quite often, due to the "latent crisis" context of the market in France, we insist on the importance of not setting deadlines for finding a new position. Being out of a job in our times is not the same as in times of economic growth. Mostly, the extension of the unemployment period is not due to a lack of skills or motivation from the candidates but to the economic context. Setting up a strategy for a career evolution is a rather long process these days; Remaining serene and constructive is essential. Our purpose is to loosen the candidates' stress, especially when they are out of a job, with a family to support.
Lastly, there is a topic that arises in the discussion quite often and that we do care about: Atypical profiles. People we meet ALL present as atypical. Are they really? In our very classical French upbringing, with our specific double entry higher education system (cheap public universities vs. "grandes écoles" – highly reputed and costly business or engineering schools) most of the people that we interview are graduates from the latter rather than the former. So much for the diversity of our corporate management, but that is yet another issue…
Let's be honest: "Atypical profiles" in our still traditional French environment are in fact quite formatted!
People who visit us in our offices are in no way schizophrenics. They are perfectly able to revisit their past and rationally explain the choices they made at every step in their career, even those choices appearing at first sight unexpected or incongruous. The decisions made were in a different personal and professional context and the sum of these choices makes the person unique.
Candidates need to take back the ownership and uniqueness of their career and personal path in order to shape up their narrative. They need to be able to explain why and how they contributed to the performance of the organizations they joined – outplacement companies are training candidates to this as well. They need to add a connection, that does not necessarily appears on CVs, between their successive professional experiences: Why and how did they switch jobs and/or companies?
This could be called an alignment exercise. Life not being always rational and linear, our best advice to candidates is, since they are not schizophrenic – as said before! – to underline the coherence of their own path. We are all coherent and aligned… and furthermore agile!
To those candidates-to-be, those professionals of great quality, often recognized for their management/leadership qualities, their expertise, facing the sometimes difficult challenge of searching a career evolution, our advice is: Do not say you are atypical. This term is over used and often in a judgmental way, since our traditional management culture praises linear careers.
Instead, talk about uniqueness. Your uniqueness. Find it, build your narrative and rationale around it, and cultivate it. The organizations that you joined prized it, your future employers will make use of it as well to enrich their value chain. Your uniqueness will make their difference: Isn't that thrilling?
Xavière THOMAZO PHISEL