All the right moves.
By Christopher Mumford ~ HVS International
Friday, 28th April 2006
In my role as an executive search consultant - it is noticeable how many more unsolicited resumes fill up my Inbox in the first couple of weeks of January than at other times of the year. It is a clear sign that the euphoria and relaxation of Christmas has died down and people's minds are turning towards the year ahead and the changes they would like to make to their personal and professional lives.

New Year is typically a time when people review the previous twelve months, take stock of where they are now, and make plans for the future. Along with quitting smoking, going on a diet, and vowing to drink less, a frequent New Year's resolution is to change job. This decision may be taken out of a desire to increase one's financial situation, to gain a step on the career ladder, or to escape an unhappy work situation. The resultant action of this resolution is often a frenzied updating of the resume and a firing of emails to a multitude of job websites, recruiters, and Human Resources departments. By mid-January when everyone is settled back into their daily routine and fully occupied again with their current work deadlines, this flurry of job seeking activity has come to a screeching halt and the resume gets filed in the bottom draw until next New Year.

Successful job hunting is unlikely to result from two industrious weeks of resume updating and letter writing each January. New Year is a natural time in which to reflect and to plan ahead but managing your career effectively is a constant process which needs continual oversight.  Indeed, many think that when you start a job you should also start thinking about your next move and where you want to be going from here. The point in your career where you are unhappy and desperate to make a move is too late to start plotting your next career step. Very often I receive calls from hoteliers with a very specific time frame in which they wish to change jobs, due to the end of their contract for example, and, as if by magic, they expect the perfect job to be sitting waiting for them at exactly the right time. Timing is rarely so fortuitous.

In our function as headhunters, we target and go after those individuals who are happy, successful, and comfortable in their positions. Why would a company want to hire someone who is actively looking to leave their current employer? The best candidates are those currently doing a good job for someone else, not those whose time, focus and energy is being spent on trying to escape.

Just as a hotel needs to position itself effectively in the marketplace to gain market share, so too do professionals need to position themselves within their industry sector in order to improve their chances of making that move up the ladder into a better situation. Prospective job candidates need to develop their own personal brand, reputation, skill set and contact network during their working life. Making yourself visible within your company and industry will increase your chances of being promoted, headhunted, or even simply recognised for what you do. Networking and developing contacts and long-term relationships with others in the industry is vitally important. The hotel industry is one in which the importance of networking is not only particularly true but also one in which it is especially easy to achieve thanks to the naturally social nature of the business and its ‘global village' character. Good networking should also extend to maintaining a good knowledge of the industry as a whole and its trends, challenges and opportunities. By keeping up to date with the trade press and by networking regularly, you are able to identify opportunities early and to react to them quickly.

Whether you are responding to a specific opportunity or making a general introduction for future reference, the manner in which you approach a potential employer, job board or recruiter can greatly influence how successful your application will be. In particular, the escalation in the use of electronic communication methods has resulted in a range host of choices and means for making effective contact with a potential hiring power. The underlying necessity however of communicating in a clear and concise manner still applies.

Here are some random ‘do's and ‘don't's based on our experiences at HVS.

  • Do keep your covering email/letter concise and to the point
  • Do follow up an application with a telephone call
  • Do name your resume file clearly with your name to ease filing and distribution by the recipient; do you know how many resumes recruiters receive with the file name ‘cv1'? This is meaningless by the time it has been forwarded on to the 6th person in the hiring organisation
  • Do include your contact details; despite sounding painfully obvious, we are constantly amazed by the number of emails and resumes we receive with no telephone number
  • Do highlight tangible achievements on your resume
  • Do get advice and opinion from family and friends on the layout and content of your resume
  • Do write a thank you note after an interview
  • Do keep a record of whom you have applied to and when
  • Do bear in mind when compiling your resume and cover letter that your file is probably one of hundreds being viewed this week by the recipient
  • Do not send a resume as an attachment to a blank email or with the three word message ‘Please see attached'; these get deleted immediately
  • Do not under any circumstances use colour or graphics on your resume
  • Do not have any typos or spelling mistakes; I estimate that 9 out of every 10 resumes that I read have at least one error; if you cannot devote the time to  get this document accurate how precise will you be in your work?
  • Do not complete a job web board profile without giving complete and full information
  • Do not send your information to someone irrelevant, make sure you target the decision maker; for example it is often the department head and not HR who is initiating the recruitment of a new position
  • Do not use a gimmicky email address; beerguzzler@email.com  or munchkin@email.com does not send the right message to a prospective employer
A resume is a living document one which should be regularly reviewed and updated. After all, you do not want to lose a job opportunity because it took you three days to update your file before sending it to the hiring authority. Similarly make time on a regular basis to conduct an audit of your career, to assess your ambitions over the medium and long term; to consider your skills, talents, and weaknesses; and to identify what gaps you need to fill and against what deadlines in order to achieve these goals. 

Career management is not a two week exercise for when you are stuffed with Christmas turkey and searching for a New Year's resolution to add to your list. Rather it is something which should always be in the conscious background at varying degrees of intensity and you should always be prepared and in a position to act effectively. 

Mr. Christopher Mumford      
HVS International Executive Search London


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