Hopefully you had a chance to read my blog last week, which featured the first half of my interview with Peter. It talked more about the executive search industry. Today, the focus is on getting expert advice from Peter about what you should and shouldn’t do in your next big job interview. And, he should know. He’s helped many of the top franchising executives build their careers.
David – Let’s switch gears now and take advantage of your vast knowledge on the subject and talk specifically about what you recommend for executives who may be looking for a new opportunity specific to the franchise vertical.
Peter – Sure, happy to.
David – What’s the best time of year to look for a job in the franchise industry?
Peter – I would say the most active times are during the third and fourth quarters as companies are preparing their budgets for the next fiscal year. We tend to see an increase in activity in late October or the beginning of November. The latter parts of January through April are also very active. This said, I would still encourage you to look for a job outside of these time frames.
David – What kinds of things do you look for or that jump out on a resume as someone you want to talk to?
Peter – To answer that question, we have to consider the type of firm Capodice & Associates is. There are different types of executive search firms: Contingency firms represent candidates, and retained firms represent the client (company). We are a retained firm, so we represent the client company. But, as resumes come in, we want to get to know people and their background. The things we like to see are good tenure in a position. But, having said that, we don’t necessarily like to see someone who has been with the same company 25 or 30 years. We like to see candidates stay at a company for 5 to 10 years. Somewhere in this range is good. Ideally, we want to see some kind of career progression. That can come from the breadth and depth of experience they are acquiring. It could be from going from a smaller to a larger company or vice versa where you’re gaining more responsibility. We want to see results, big time. Our clients want to know that the candidate is going to be able to perform for them. There’s nothing better than showing what you’ve been able to accomplish on your resume. It doesn’t matter what the position was; the results are what is important.
David – Your clients look to you to deliver candidates with the right kind of experience who can deliver results. What do you advise candidates to focus on in an interview that conveys the message they have the experience and can deliver the results?
Peter – I recommend a couple of things. First, they should thoroughly research the company they are going to interview with. They should know the company’s key players and the company’s past performance. They should know a little about the folks within the organization and what the company’s objectives (growth or non-growth) are. The Internet is a great tool for this. Thorough knowledge of the company is critically important. A recent real-life example I can give you is this: We have three candidates vying for a very senior role (president) at a client company. Of the three who interviewed, they are only moving two forward in the process. One of the candidates, who was possibly the brightest of the three and definitely had equal experience and could have been successful at the job, was under prepared for the interview. The candidate had done minimal research on the company. This was a red flag to the company. The candidate was very qualified for the position but was eliminated from the running due to lack of preparation. You cannot over prepare for an interview! Second, understand what you’re good at, what your strengths are, what you can contribute to the company you’re interviewing with. Don’t embellish, but sell yourself honestly and passionately. Determine what the best cultural fit is for you. Now, if you are in a position where you’re going to be making a move that involves a relocation, as great a reputation the company has – maybe they’re a high-flying fast casual or in the hot segment like health and fitness is now – you always want to consider the fit first. Even if you really want to be with one of these “now” companies, consider the fit. Maybe it’s not the best fit for you even though it is a “now” company. Make sure your strengths are put to work for a good company. Don’t get yourself in a bad situation that creates a gap in your resume and causes difficulties in your personal life.
David – Job-hunting and the interview process can be very emotional. Great advice to keep the process a bit more strategic by putting the focus on the fit first and foremost. Now, I’d like to look at the other side of this. You’ve been at this a long time, so I know you’ve heard a lot of stories. What do you advise candidates to absolutely never do during an interview?
Peter – I would tell you that as comfortable as the interviewer makes you feel, don’t let your guard down. They want you to feel comfortable and to let your guard down so they can see what you’re really all about. We’ve had some really interesting things happen even at the senior level we work with. Choose your words so that you aren’t saying anything inappropriate. Words that are appropriate in your world may not be appropriate in the interviewing world. Believe it or not, we’ve seen that. Be prepared and understand the interviewer wants to get to know who you really are.
David – I also think it’s also good to point out to be very cautious in how you use social media.
Peter – You are absolutely, 100 percent correct. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want prospective employers to be able to see.
David – Such great advice, Peter. At the executive level, the interviewer is really trying to see who a person really is and how they behave under pressure. They’re trying to determine how the candidate will behave when dealing with other people inside the company or with independent contractors. They want to know what the candidate’s business approach is. I was recently used as a reference for candidate in a very senior level position and they were asking me those kinds of questions. This is what they wanted to know – their behavior. Their questions weren’t as direct, but behavior was what they were driving at. They want someone who is going to fit in and has the same values and can execute the values of the founder, is that accurate?
Peter – Without a doubt, and I’d take it a step further. If you’re working with a retained search firm, remember they are working for the client (company) and not the candidate. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to help the candidate, it doesn’t mean we don’t have interest in making it a successful relationship, but the client is paying the fee. So, keep in mind, when you are talking to the executive search firm, you are in essence talking to the company. Be careful what you say.
David – I have one last question for you. How have things changed in your industry over the last few years? Specifically, what’s been the evolution of this process over the last four or five years?
Peter – In 2009 with the economic downturn, we saw many search firms go away. The search firms that truly added value to their process are the ones that are still around. So, what do I mean when I say “adding value?” I mean you’re not just submitting bodies to a company. You’re someone who has tenure in the industry, and you’re engaged in the industry. You know the successful individuals in the industry and what they are doing, and you understand the behaviors that apply to success. You can coach and counsel an organization as to what type of candidate will be best, building your credibility. Lately, we’re seeing this still holds true. The successful search firms are continuing to add value. Anyone can put a body into a company, but the most successful firms with the long-term credibility are those adding value by building comprehensive industry knowledge, knowing the best candidates, and delivering real results.
A big thanks to Peter for his insightful advice. You’ll want to keep this information in mind when you’re going for your next job interview. Good luck!