Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to land a great new job? Diane Kerley, an accounting and finance recruiter for over 15 years and Partner at The Mason Group, has in-depth knowledge of what qualities and skills employers are looking for in candidates and how to grab the attention of hiring managers in today’s competitive market.
Recruitment agencies are constantly looking for top talent, accounting and finance professionals who are well trained, have a solid track record of career success, and possess the necessary soft skills that propel them to the top of the candidate-pile. In this article, Kerley provides tips for getting the most out of your relationship with your recruiter and land the job of your dreams.
Differentiate yourself from other candidates
A powerful resume highlighting accomplishments is a must (more on this below), but Kerley also looks for “strong communication skills, someone who is articulate and readily able to engage in a conversation.”
One of the best ways to differentiate yourself and highlight your communication skills is to directly call the recruiter you’re targeting. “It is rare to receive a call these days and it makes you stand out. Differentiate yourself from other accounting and finance candidates by calling or following up with a phone call after emailing your resume,” recommends Kerley.
Win your recruiter over quickly with a well-scripted elevator pitch that speaks to what you can do. In your conversation with the recruiter, introduce yourself by describing who you are (i.e. your job title), what you can do (i.e. your areas of expertise), and why you’re calling. Be prepared to leave a message that is well crafted, upbeat and professional.
Back it up with an accomplishment-based resume
Recruiters sort through hundreds of resumes as they search for top candidates possessing the specific skills for which their clients are willing to pay. “Recruiters want to see a resume profile statement that describes who you are and what you can do,” Kerley states. “It needs to show you’re targeting a specific career or type of role.”
Following the profile statement, outline your educational accomplishments if they’re recent and aligned with your career objectives. Then, offer up a chronological list of work experience. How far back should your resume go? Kerley offers the following advice: “If your early career experience is related to the job posting you’re targeting, create a section called “Prior Experience.” Then simply list the relevant roles (i.e. job title and company name) you’ve held in that industry.”
Keep in mind that resume tracking databases scan your resume for relevant, role or industry-specific keywords. Scour job postings to identify these keywords and include them in your resume. For example, if the position requires “sales forecasting” experience, your resume should reflect that skill set.
Your first meeting with a recruiter
The most important step you can take before meeting with the recruiter involves preparation. You should be ready to intelligently answer questions about yourself. Study as if you’re taking a college or grad-school prep test. Know your answers to commonly asked interview questions like “Tell me about yourself.” “Walk me through your resume.” “What are you looking for in your next career move?” and “What are your salary expectations?” Be ready to also ask insightful questions at the end of your interview.
While rehearsing answers to these questions is important be prepared to also discuss challenging periods of your career with the recruiter. Consider the recruiter as a trusted insider who needs the full details about your work history. They don’t like to be surprised – ever. Kerley recommends being honest about challenges in your past. “I would rather know in advance and avoid any surprises. If we are working together as a team, there needs to be mutual trust and the challenges may be something we can work around.”
Here are a few more tips for navigating challenging questions in the first meeting with your recruiter:
Why did you leave your last job? If you were fired, say so, but also provide a concise, rational reason. Here’s a savvy way to handle a personality conflict issue: tell the recruiter that when a new manager came on board, you just didn’t work well together due to differences in styles. Describe how you’re now looking for an opportunity with a manager that will give you the latitude to do your job and trust you to get the work done.
How much do you currently make? Always be truthful when answering this question. Your recruiter needs to know your current salary, but also the amount you’re targeting in order to appropriately market you as a candidate. Kerley offers the following tip: “Recruiters do not want to be surprised at the salary-negotiation stage if you propose a different salary requirement with the hiring manager than had been discussed throughout the interview process.”
What are you looking for in your next role? Recruiters can’t work with you and you won’t advance in your career if you’re unclear about your career objectives. To determine the best fit for the roles you are targeting, Kerley expects a clear and concise answer to this question: “What are your top three must-haves or motivators in order for an opportunity to be a good fit for you?” She uses this information to guide her selection of possible jobs.
When your recruiter goes cold
What happens if you submit your resume and don’t hear back? Consider these steps:
Check your resume. Is it compelling? If it’s not, a recruiter likely won’t waste their time calling you. What makes a great resume? One that’s accomplishment-focused and keyword-rich. The resume should not only be compelling, but it should be professionally formatted as well.
Call your recruiter. Particularly if you’ve been on an interview, reconnect with your recruiter. Ask for feedback from the interview and inquire about their client’s intentions moving forward.
Stay in touch. If you have gained new skills, taken on a contract, participated in a significant project, updated your resume or achieved new certifications or training, let your recruiter know.
Don’t think of the exchange with the recruiter as a one-time deal. Kerley advises accounting and finance professionals to think of “the relationship as spanning your career” to get the most value from it. Her best clients stay in touch, even after they land their next opportunity. She recommends you “maintain your relationship by keeping in touch and going for coffee so you are always top of mind when your recruiter is sourcing talent, and they can be there for you should you need assistance hiring staff.”
Ultimately, the key to successful career advancement involves developing a strong and lasting relationship with your recruiter. Nurture that connection now when you’re job hunting and throughout your career. You never know when your recruiter will reach out with a great opportunity, or when you may need to tap into their recruiting talents to help fill a last minute or difficult vacancy within your organization.
Written by Joanne Loberg of JL Careers Inc. She is a Certified Executive Coach and Internationally Certified Career Management Professional with 20+ years experience providing leadership and career coaching to executives and professionals. Contact her today for a complimentary telephone consultation to discuss your situation and devise strategies to land the job of your dreams.